The Ottumwa Courier

May 22, 2013


Ottumwa Courier

---- — The names so familiar. The faces so easily recalled. Those people who were part of my life, growing up in a small town.

My daughter wanders through the cemetery, pointing out names, commenting on the many beautiful stones that mark that small rural patch of memories.

I wander, too, thinking about the people I once knew. They are a collective part of me, a part of my life I always want to remember.

I drive through my hometown, recognizing so many places, remembering the whole of Mt. Union, my little area of childhood. I have always had this great love for my little town and the people in it.

It gave me pause when I finally realized that I love the memory of that part of Henry County. That even though the town is still there, many of the places I knew so well are gone. And most of the people I knew who lived there are gone, too.

So, I keep in my heart this cherished memory of a childhood that seemed to last so long. Oh, the freedoms we had, to be riding around on the paved streets long after dark or far out in the country during the golden days of summer, back when there were houses in every mile.

On Saturday, as I sat in the shade with my daughter and grandson, I gazed at those beautiful black fields where corn was starting to sprout. I could look forever.

I was in Canaan Township, the flat lands so rich in giving farmers working the land a good crop. My senses filled with the song of the country birds, the occasional truck going by, the puffy white clouds in a sky that went on forever, the sun so warm on our skins, making little Max’s fair hair shine with a golden hue.

It was his first road trip, and of course, he mostly slept through it. But, my daughter was prepared, we had everything he could need.

Tears fell in the cemetery where we showed Max the resting places of his great-grandparents. Next time, we will go further away and show him the lovely rural cemetery where his great-great-grandparents are resting.

I left flowers for Aunt Winnie and Uncle Floyd and brothers Jim and Jack and my niece, Shelly.

I walked past stones, remembering well the Mt. Union folks, the Kriegers, the Joneses, the Riepes, the Flayhartys, the Gabelines, the Nicholsons. I paused at Bob Nicholson’s grave. He was in my high school class and left us way too soon. I looked south to the spot where a farm house once stood, a house where Jim and Jack were raised.

In town, my favorite house is forlorn and looks forgotten. I had 10 happy years in that house, in those huge yards where we played hide and seek and baseball and where I had a treehouse. The next 10 years were in the little yellow house, which has fared much better, but Dad’s barn is gone, as are all the trees and bushes he planted. Where mom lived her last 20 years is not the house I enjoyed; it, too, looks a little neglected. It is the same in most places, some houses are lost, some deserted, but others have been brought back to life.

My little town has a bank, a post office and an elevator.

The school house is still standing, and a lovely city park shows it is being tended to faithfully.Some day, I will take little Max for a walk around that little town and tell him about his grandma’s childhood, just like I did his mother. I don’t go there often, and I don’t visit those cemeteries every year. But this year, we did, and we left part of my sister Colleen there. I think it would have made her happy.