I am reposting this blog entry because, thanks to my friend, lauri27wsmith, I have been made aware of a song that so perfectly reflects what I am trying to say. It is called “The Old House” by John Mcdermott. I have added the lyrics below which I think are beautiful. You can pull it up on the web if you wish to hear it sung.
Lonely I wander through scenes of my childhood
They bring back to memory the happy days of yore
Gone are the old folk, the house stand deserted
No light in the window, no welcome at the door
Here’s where the children played games on the heather
Here’s where they sailed their wee boats on the burn
Where are they now? some are dead, some have wandered
No more to their home will the children return
Lonely the house now, and lonely the moorland
The children have scattered, the old folk are gone
Why stand I here, like a ghost or a shadow?
“tis time I was movin”, tis time I passed on
I drive in silence, watching the road closely as it coils along the rocky coastline, occasionally flipping on the wipers to remove the sea mist that gathers on my windshield. How long has it been, I muse, since the last time I was here. More years then I like to think I’m afraid. Yet still, the closer I come to the village that was my childhood home, the more a sense of belonging reawakens.
I enter the village, driving slowly past aging homes with painted shingles and large, inviting porches. I used to know many of the families that lived here. I went to school with their children. We spent many afternoons playing in these yards. But where I once belonged is now merely the familiar. The old neighborhoods have forgotten me. Moved on as did I.
I pass the high school, and thoughts of happier days spent with friends here are revived. I remember my prom. Dressed in my rented tux that almost fit. Double dating with my friend Brad because he had a car. Trying to look so cool while stumbling through a waltz. And my first love. A girl from the West side of town who moved in different circles then I, always surrounded by the popular in our class. My heart kept silent by our differences. She never knew me at all. Funny how times change. I heard that she married one of our football heroes who ended up driving a truck for the Public Works department. Ironic.
As I approach the shops on Main Street, I note that most have new names and new owners. Others sit dark and vacant. There is a time worn atmosphere encompassing the area. Not at all like the vibrant tone that was the norm during my youth. Back when this was the heart of the community. You came here for your groceries, your clothes, your haircuts. This is where the theater was. But no more. I can’t help but feel a little sad.
I continue to search for the familiar, driving down by the old port. It speaks more loudly of what I remember. The names of the boats, bobbing at anchor, have changed, but much remains the same. Lobster traps stacked along the weathered wharves. The smell of the sea assaulting your nostrils. The ferry to the islands loading vehicles for the short trip across the bay. For just a moment, a little of the warmth I have been seeking has been discovered.
I drive aimlessly through the town, only to be greeted by a today I had not anticipated. I had been so excited about coming home, only to find my home is no longer here. This place was the soul of my childhood. I guess I never expected it to forsake my memories, but instead, remain frozen in time, waiting for my return to begin anew.
As I drive the tree lined streets, lost in my emotions, I hear the distant ringing of a bell. I recognize the mellow chime immediately, like the voice of an old friend. It is the Chapel by the Sea calling me. I am drawn, quickly responding to it’s invitation.
I stare as if seeing it for the first time, savoring the weather beaten wood and frosted windows. The sturdy steeple urges me to enter. As I step into the dim, cool interior, it is as if I never left. I am that kid again, with shined shoes and slicked down hair that came here every Sunday to profess my faith.
The silence is overwhelming as I slide into a pew, letting the nostalgia of the moment wash over me. I have found my anchor. For all my absence, I feel this one place has indeed awaited my return. As I immerse myself in its embrace, I at last experience a sense that says “welcome home. I’ve missed you.”