Just the other day, I was reading Facebook when I came across a post from a high school classmate of mine who was writing about what it was like to load up his extremely large family for a weekend trip to one of the local drive-in movie theaters.
Gary Grantham is one of nine brothers and sisters who grew up in Geneva, Alabama. He went on to be a legendary math teacher and football coach for the Geneva High School Panthers. An all around great guy.
In his delightful post, Gary recalled how his mother and father had to follow a precise routine to get all the kids, food and drinks ready for the night out. His mother popped corn, stashing it in paper bags for the trip to either the H & R Drive In or the Star Light Drive In. Gary's dad would stop at the local ice plant where he would buy a large chunk of ice that would be used to chill a washtub full of soft drinks.
Reading Gary's account of preparing for a night out with his family made me nostalgic for that simpler time ... and the precious memories I carry with me about life in my small hometown ... just like millions of people who grew up in their version of Geneva.
If you asked me to describe a trip to the drive-in the summer I turned 16, it would be heaven on earth. The freedom that came with being able to drive most anyplace in the town of 3,500 or so was indescribable. It was a proving ground where we had come of age ... in many ways.
When I turned 40, I spent a Sunday afternoon alone in my hometown. The first and most important part of that afternoon was spent admiring the two houses where the Howell family had lived starting in 1948. The first house was a duplex which we shared with a couple that eventually became our good friends.
But the backyard of that house — which I remembered distinctly as being vast — had, over the 40 years, shrunk to just ordinary size. And the front porch — my haven from the afternoon thunderstorms that regularly pelted our town — was now just a front porch with no sign of the extra large and comfortable swing I had grown to love.
That swing had been my escape vehicle taking me to imaginary places I had dreamed of — often waking up safe and sound with my head in my mother's lap after the storm had moved on to take aim at another location. All of this happened on the edge of my so called long-term memory ... but yet strong enough to have held on into my 40s.
I recall my hometown as being almost pristine. Looking at pictures of the great buildings like the grand old (operative word old) elementary school building was a favorite of mine. How many wonderful times did we share inside that regal old building?
I guess this comparison of what we remember and what is reality gets back to a story about a roll of toilet paper and a fireplace mantle.
While talking about the plans for a new school which our sons would attend, our headmaster (a retired three-star Air Force general) reminded a group of parents to beware of things you don't notice any more.
He said that if you leave a roll of toilet paper on your mantle long enough you won't notice it ... at all, but a visitor to your house will see nothing but it.
I believe many of my childhood memories have their share of toilet paper rolls on their mantles ... but I don't care. I like my memories just the way I recall them.
Here's wishing you good health, patience and perseverance in these turbulent times. They won't last forever.