Thursday, December 1, 2011

Going Home - Memoir

Today I traveled back in time. Wayne, Pennsylvania.

I walked to the church where John and I married so many years ago.  A girl with platinum blond hair in a sleek white gown with pearls at her throat takes the arm of a tall, dark-haired man with Italian good looks.  He smiles as they pose in front of a red oak door . . . she never realizing she would live whole lifetimes without him.

She has raised his children, dated men whose stories have left her touched and unmoved.  She has traveled to places they only dreamed of seeing; Italy, France, Australia. Yet he has never left her side.

I am a former reporter for a city newspaper, the mother of two amazing sons, a writer, author and editor.  The dream has come true for the girl who never fit in; the girl who wanted a life of romance, travel and adventure.  The girl who wanted to eat life up, take it by the horns.

Today I found myself walking the same sidewalks from decades before. I used to buy tickets for movies at the Anthony Wayne Theater. "Jason and the Argonauts." Remember the hydra, the monsters? The ticket taker accused me of lying about my age to get the cheaper ticket. I was tall, towered above the boys my age. "You're trying to tell me you're only 12?" she sneered.  I stood my ground. 

Wayne wasn't a kind place if you were different, gangly, had nothing to do with country clubs.   All you wanted was escape.  Now you find yourself here again.  The shops have changed. Harrison's Department Store is gone, as is the Rexall drugstore with its soda fountain, Woolworth's with its plastic flowers and bargain hosiery.  You ask a young woman in the coffee shop if this wasn't once a photography studio.  She just looks at you.  "Its been a coffee shop for years."  When you tell her when you graduated from high school in this town, she smiles.  "Wow," is all she says.

Wayne Presbyterian where John and I wed.
Going "home"  . . .  Memories of a handsome brother who bought into the fast cars, the leather briefcases, the salesman pitch that eventually killed him.  A mother who shopped supermarkets for bargains in an ankle-length raccoon coat and red high heels, flirting with the butcher. The girl who found escape by typing away on a Smith Corona until 2 a.m..

Was it a dream? They are all dead now.  You are the sole survivor.  Here you stand in the same town, the same maple trees shadowing the red oak door where you and he stood after taking your vows. He whispers in your ear.  "I love you.  I always have."

You cry. Then you straighten your shoulders.  You realize how lucky you are.  You grab the keys to your car, start the engine and leave the town behind.


Edda said...

Oh, upfront 'mano a mano' with your home town. Quite a different story than David Brooks' "Bobos in Paradise" fame. Funny how a place can 'talk' to you...familiar buildings remain still and solid and true to their space. But memories...dreams - realized or unfulfilled....shift, move, sway, breathe, whisper. Too often, they say heartache.

Susan G. Weidener said...


Thank you for your comments and so beautifully said. This was a fast write late last night when I knew I wanted to write about Wayne. Memories . . . I see that often in the Circle. The memories that become stories of heartache, nostalgia, even regret; yet after writing them, the women seem to feel uplifted by remembering and putting it down on paper and ultimately sharing it with others. That's how I feel too.