Where to start on this tale? I guess it started with a fire and the generosity of people I haven't seen in too many years. They rallied despite me being a guy who left his hometown and disappeared. The only thing that brought me back was my mother passing and even then I didn't see a lot of these folks and then I was a ghost again.
I am not sure what made me want to come back to the town where I grew up but I knew I finally wanted to . I was wanting to see my two best high school friends, the guys who stood by me through many a year. Brothers to speak. I don't know if I feel that time is running short but it was important. Others said it had been to long as well and we got our dates together and it was a done deal for me.
July 4th found me racking a canoe early in the morning. I seemed to recall it was a six hour drive but the GPS and maps said four. I was going to take my time as this was going to be a ride back in time for me driving a route I hadn't taken in over ten years and the roads had been changed by man and nature. It was very much like driving through a haze of memories and I found myself stopping here and there to just do nothing but look and recall from days past. It was like walking into my past and I had grin on my face because I guess I hadn't been in that place in a long while and was finally comfortable with it. Yeah, very comfortable a feeling I had not felt in a long while.
So why a canoe racked up? Well, my buddy John seemed to need one and with seven hulls to play with it just seemed like the thing to do. He needs it more then I do and living at the gateway to the Adirondacks he, well, just needs it. When I pulled into his place he said, "A big canoe on a little car!" It was a done deal and a good one at that.
I checked into the fleabag hotel and just sat for a long while wondering what I was doing, what the hell was I doing here, how was this going to go? I was nervous about seeing folks since they were all pretty tight and I was the outsider so I thought. I got a call later from my friend Kevin, "We're at Alteri's, get your ass over here!" I guessed things really hadn't changed. When I got there he was tucked into a back corner with his wife and her friend and it was like the years had not made one bit of difference. He is still the Bear and thought he'd break me with the hug I got. We picked up the conversation that we started long ago, it was yesterday but today. How good can that get? And it became the theme for the visit. People kept stopping by and saying hello. Ken Grabeldinger was a real surprise. I was never close with him but that didn't stop him for a second. I swear as the next day or so went by and he was there he was the funniest and most sincere guy and I just don't recall him that way. As I thought about things later he was always a stand up guy but we traveled in different circles back in the day. I look forward to your company again!
I am still impressed with the 4th parade! It was perhaps the longest and best parade I have seen and do not recall that from my childhood. You could tell how much pride there is in this community, that part has not changed at all! I had an ear to ear grin on my face.
July 5 found me looking for Kevin's house. French Road! Crap, stupid GPS had me going everywhere but Kevin's house so I gave it up for the time being. Instead I drove into Clinton, parked and do what I think I do best, I walked. I walked by the school, I walked by my old house on Marvin St, I walked up to historic district and on to Brimfield St only to see four deer crossing the road, down past the old movie theater which isn't there anymore and then down to the library and on to the Milk Station road. I must have walked two hours but it seemed like a minute as I used to do these walks in my youth all of the time. This town is just a beautiful as when I was a child.
I finally headed back to John's place for another visit and again it was like we hadn't missed a beat. He's one of my brother's by virtue of our past, you can't out run that. We have too much history of being good, bad and family.
Later in the day Kevin got in touch to say there was a gathering at his place! Ah Christ, the elusive French Rd. Did another search online and with a few landmarks found it. It's the goddamn house without a number but is the one by the cornfield, EVERYONE KNOWS THAT except me. Now I do! I can find that house with my eyes closed! I got introduced to Madison and Molly. Two of the sweetest dawgs I've met and honestly since the lose of mine I was smitten! I will stop there before it gets sloppier then the doggie kisses. It was more than a great time and we all were having a good enough time that the bar called to see where the hell we were as folks were waiting there as well.
So off to Alteri's it was. As we walked in there was Kathy Karin, Kevin's sister and I had not seen her in more years then I could count. Holy Crap, she grabbed my cheeks and pulled on them like my grandmother used to! I could only laugh it was so good.
I was taken aback by the number of folks there. I could list all of your names but we all know who is who and how good it was, more then good to see each and everyone of you. The night was filled laughter, memories, story telling (how much was true is up to each of us), and just catching up again. My nervousness was gone and I was where I was a teenager again with all of the friends I had.
One of the highlights was catching up with a friend, Karen, who helped me see a late night, it happens when you get talking and comparing lives. We walked the town and talked and talked. For me it was like walking through a portal into time to when we were young, when the village was alive with all of us hanging in the Village Green, shooting the breeze and all of the things we did back in that day. I could almost hear the conversations, the drama, the bragging from those past days. I thank you so much for that my friend, I will never forget that ever, although a visit to the Rock is not on my list of things to do again.
July 6 saw me up early. I was headed to Vermont to visit a friend and I had been thinking that the best route would be through the Adirondacks on Route 8. I had not been on this road in more years then I can remember and again a walk through time. I pulled over more places just to pull some memories through the fog of my gray matter. It is such beautiful country and do know why I walked away from it but now have to question myself. I think I will have to revisit it again with at least one of my canoes, there are a lot of good rivers to run in that neck of the woods.
So, I finally get back home and I am sad. I was saddened by how I had abandoned these friends for so long but they hadn't me is what I was thinking.
I was missing my friends, my youth, my past, my history. Then I got a text from Kevin:
"I guess what they say about family is true. If you don't see someone for a long time and pickup where you left off then either you are family or close. We my friend are family like it or not!"
Yes we are brother, that part doesn't change!
So I responded that I have missed too much time by being the missing person. I'm not going to be that missing person anymore and look forward to being with family again, When you are raised in a small village for a lifetime you are family because we all were at one time even if we didn't think so and in so many ways still are.