There's a lot to be said for "going home" to the place you grew up; to where people talk like you; to where you fall asleep at night to familiar sounds and wake refreshed, even if you have jet lag. Being "back home" has significant meaning to me and I miss it when I'm away.
If you read this blog, you know Ohio is home for me, and I make the trip cross country 4 or 5 times a year to see my family and a handful of close friends. I usually stay at my folk's house-- Mom and Dave's, but their home is a home I've visited since I was 13 years old, long before they'd even met or married.
Mr. and Mrs. Smith bought the house my folks now live in, back the late 1950s. Mrs. Smith always told me the story about when "The Dame Fool" aka Mr. Smith, was taking the train from California to Niagara Falls where she was living with family while he was on an engineering job out West.
There was a big snow storm and the train was delayed overnight in our hometown-- a "god-awful place", she used to call it. The next morning, The Damn Fool went out for a walk-- in a blizzard-- and bought the house! The first time I heard the story was 1972, and all those years later, Mrs. Smith was still none too happy about Mr. Smith buying a house for them to actually live in without consulting her. The fact that it was in a small town rather than a big city, her preference, only added insult to injury.
The Smiths were Central Casting's version of the perfect "little old man and woman". Silver white hair, elegantly dressed, highly educated, world-traveled and just so darn cute you couldn't help but fall in love with them-- Because they were so in love with each other, despite Mr. Smith's "damn fool" status.
Mrs. Smith was 78 years old when we met. She'd broken her hand and word of mouth lead her to me for with help cleaning and doing chores around their home. We were fast friends and I spent every Saturday with her dusting, washing dishes, sometimes gardening and always hearing about her life experiences, which were amazing to a small town girl like me. Once I got my driver's license we'd grocery shop and do errands together too.
Mr. Smith was always smoking a cigar and eating ice cream for lunch. When we met, at age 83, he said it's what kept him going and it did until he was 97 years old. But Mr. Smith was lucky Mrs. Smith hadn't killed him years before! He usually got himself into big trouble for leaving things laying around or "mucking up the banister"-- the white carved railing leading upstairs. Every Saturday, my first job was to wash down the banister erasing Mr. Smith's sticky, muddy, grimy fingerprints so he wouldn't "catch hell" from his beloved wife.
My friends had no children or family and they became an important part of my extended family. I learned so much from the Smith's during our nearly 20 year friendship. Probably the most important lesson was that no matter how busy, or angry and upset, you might be with each other, when you part, even if you're just going to the market, always take a moment, hold the other's face in your hands and tell them you love them, then kiss them good bye and mean it. I get a lump in my throat just thinking about it because I saw them do that with each other probably a thousand times. Never once did they not take a special moment for each other.
Eventually, I moved away and my dear Mom took over caring for the Smith's; making sure they had everything they needed and taking them to appointments, church and the likes. But Mom didn't do a lot of housework; Mrs. Smith said she'd rather do it her self "for the exercise". But as time wore on, the banister wasn't as white as it used to be and she gave up trying to change Mr. Smith's sticky hands habits. We'd talk on the phone every week and she'd still call him The Dame Fool but we both knew she wasn't fooling anyone. She loved him-- sticky fingers and all.
When Mr. Smith passed away, the neighbors poured over to their home to offer their condolences to a devastated Mrs. Smith. Somewhere along the way, a well meaning neighbor did a little cleaning and it included removing the grim from the white banister.
A few days after the funeral, a very sad Mrs. Smith stopped and sat at the bottom of the stairs crying when she realized Mr. Smith's fingerprints were gone forever.
Five years later, when Mrs. Smith passed away, my folks bought the house I'd first stepped foot in when I was 13. It's a warm and inviting home with sweet memories for me, including being married in the back yard, under the rose arbor, where Mrs. Smith always said I would.
I count it as a blessing for me to sleep here tonight.
How do you count your blessings?
Welcome to The Fifty Factor - Joanna
Photo Credit-- Mine - Mom and Dave's house, May 2009