In August, my oldest son, who is a high school senior, and I packed the car and headed off on a week-long tour of college campuses in the Midwest. It was a great week with ample father-son bonding. We even seemed to agree on what music to play in the car. Before heading home, we made a detour north to my hometown of Orchard Lake, Michigan. The main purpose was to visit my mother, who is 93 now and, despite the expected age-related infirmities, has retained her good cheer and optimism.
Those of you who have read my memoir, The Longest Trip Home, know Mom quite well. She was a colorful firecracker as a younger woman and, blessedly, has retained a good deal of that spunk into old age. It was great to see her, and to see how my 17-year-old could make her face light up just by being there. Mom entertained us with stories from her childhood, which she remembered with crystal clarity even though she has trouble remembering what she had for lunch. (That’s her above, mid-story.) My son found the stories highly amusing, especially the ones that involved her getting into trouble with her own parents. Some aspects of the parent-child relationship just don’t change.
While in town, I had another item on my agenda. I wanted to revisit my childhood haunts, the places I describe in The Longest Trip Home, the ones that helped shape me. And so, video camera in hand, I walked the neighborhood streets, dropped by my old grade school, found an open door into the church where I had my disastrous first confession, and where two decades later Jenny and I were married. I walked down to the neighborhood beach on Cass Lake where we swam and smoked cigarettes as kids, and to the special place my brother and I would steal away to when we were skipping Sunday Mass.
You can view the video of my trip home here:
As you will see, much has changed in the old neighborhood since I was a kid. And some things haven’t changed much at all.
Happy New Year!