“Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” ~ Robert Frost
If you had the opportunity to walk to and from school as a child, chances are you remember that walk quite well. My house was located rather close to the church and school – just about a quarter mile away. As a young child, my mother drove me to school. But as I grew older, I was allowed to walk all by myself. Since the school was within a reasonable walking distance to all of our homes, we walked home for lunch, then walked back for the rest of the day. The walk was seven minutes at a reasonable pace (longer when my legs were shorter), four times a day.
Even in high school (a slightly longer walk at one mile), I still walked back and forth to the grade school to either hang out, help out, go to church, or work at the rectory. The distance may have been close, but during those years I must have walked the equivalent of hundreds of miles repeating that simple quarter mile.
The walk wasn’t especially scenic – just a bunch of other houses of various shapes and sizes. Despite the relative simplicity of the walk, or perhaps because of it, my mind is occasionally flooded with fleeting memories of that walk home. We always remember the important events in life, but how often do we take time to remember the mundane, everyday, ordinary things that are part of our lives?
I have two favorite memories of walking home during winter. The first was when I was around 12 years old and in 6th grade. Back then I only wore eyeglasses for looking at “the board” in school (I was tall and always seated in the back of the room) and for watching television. One cold day I must have fumbled with my eyeglass case – in part because some girls in my class passed by and teased me about something or other. I remember dropping it, then quickly picking up my belongings and running the rest of the way home. Later that night, I put on my glasses to watch tv , and a lens was missing! I remembered where I dropped them, so my father decided to walk back to school with me to find the missing (and costly) lens.
By now, it was after dinner and very dark outside. It started snowing as we walked to school. “Where did you drop them?” my father asked. I replied, “Somewhere along the fence!” It was true – that’s where I dropped my school bag. But the fence was about the length of a football field…or two! My father patiently shined a flashlight as we searched and searched in the falling snow, but the lens was never found. We laugh about it to this day!
Years later, my friends Louie and Joe walked me home after evening Mass on another snowy, winter night. For some reason we were quite exuberant that night, and we did something out of the ordinary as we walked the quiet, deserted streets – we sang at the top of our lungs. I don’t remember the song, but we had quite a ball singing our out-of-tune melodies walking arm in arm through the falling snow.
Snow wasn’t the only weather-related walk home that made an impression on my memory. One summer day I was walking home, probably from helping out at the summer day camp, when it started to rain. Not just any rain, but a summer torrent as if God turned on a fire hydrant. About half-way home I ran into my neighbor from across the street – he was walking home from the bus stop after work. We began running together. After about a block, we both stopped and started laughing…we were soaking wet. Realizing it was futile to try to outrun the rain, we just laughed at the situation and strolled the rest of the way home.
My favorite season of the year for the walk home was spring. I don’t have any specific memories, but when I think of “the walk home” I remember spring, when everyone’s windows were open to let in the fresh, warm air. What I remember were the sounds I’d hear as I walked: dishes and silverware clattering as dinner tables were set, voices talking or yelling, children playing, babies crying, and televisions or radios broadcasting. Sounds of families, sounds of home, sounds of life.
As I searched my memories, I realized that most of my remembrances were of the walk home from school or church, not the walk there. Home! My mother was always there – and my grandmother, too. Dinner was always in process – and we always ate together as a family as soon as Dad got home from work. It was always warm – especially in the winter when my glasses would fog up going from cold to warmth. The cat was always waiting for me, although he wouldn’t dare show it.
There is a saying which says you can’t go home again, but I think you can. One day this spring when I visit my parents, I’m taking a walk up to my old school – just so I can walk home again and remember how wonderful that feels.
Do you remember your walk home from school?
[For this post I am taking the lead of Greta's Genealogy Bog and her wonderful "Memory Mondays". Greta, thanks for the inspiration to share my own memories!]