Monday, May 18, 2009

A Very Special Visit

I recently had one of those soul-satisfying experiences that you know will never be repeated, no matter how long you live.

You have heard me talk about my cousin/sister several times so you know that we are closer than fleas on a dog. This visit, though, showed just how many things we share – from memories to favorite foods.

This trip was scheduled for a time when we, just the two of us, could do what we wished with no deadlines. We did other things, too, including contributing toward the stimulation of the economy at a nearby casino and we saw a performance of Riverdance, traditional Irish quick step dancing.

The best part, though, was the day spent in the town of our birth, the little town built on hills that overlook the Ohio River. We visited the place where my family lived in an apartment from the time my parents sold our house until school was out at the end of fifth grade and we moved to another state. We visited Big Creek, where we used to swim in the cool, dark water and where baptisms are still held. We put flowers on the graves of our grandparents in the Joyce Cemetery ‘way out in the country and tried to visit old Pleasant Hill Cemetery down the road, but knee-high weeds and the threat of snakes kept us from getting a close-up view of our great-grandfather Joyce’s tombstone. We meant to visit Central Cemetery, where our great-grandparents, Reddick and Mary Ann Smith, are buried, but, both of us being directionally challenged, we got lost. We will save Reddick and Mary Ann for another day.

Then it was back downtown to see the changes wrought by time and the economy. The movie theatre and Tiny Pritchett’s restaurant are both gone. My father’s little jewelry shop is still there, but boarded up. The old post office building is something else now. Goetzman’s Department store building is still there, but has a different use. One thing that has not changed is the line of rail tracks running down Main Street, leading toward the river. They were used to carry fluorspar to be loaded on barges for shipment – a constant reminder of when this was a thriving mining town.

We crammed in a lot of activities during our three day visit, but the best part was the laughing, a bit of crying, and reminiscing we did. My cousin/sister and I have a special bond, you see. Her mother and my father were sister and brother and her mother and my mother were best friends. From our earliest days, we spent as much time in the other one’s house as in our own.

In addition to being relatives and close friends, we share other things – like the same mottled skin that runs through the Joyce – or maybe it is the Smith – family. Both of us have a fondness for Ritz crackers and cheese. I took my favorite Win Schuler’s cheese spread on the visit and, without any prompting; she pulled out the box of Ritz. Sisters just know what goes together, you see.

I would not take $1,000,000 for this visit. I have not laughed as much or as long as when we, both talking at once, recalled when she and my brother climbed the cherry tree and I tattled on them after eating the cherries or how, long after dark, we fearlessly roamed the neighborhood playing hide and seek or how Trick or Treating was not confined to just the night of Halloween.

We shared a lot of the past, each event triggering the memory of another. The memories of this visit will keep me warm for a long, long time.

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