Last weekend I walked the streets of my hometown—Wheaton, Illinois—and recognized only what wasn’t there anymore. Even my stately old high school had been demolished this year to build an upscale grocery store. This was particularly ironic, since I was in town to attend my 50th high school class reunion. It’s OK, I wouldn’t want to stand in the way of progress.
And yet—there was one remaining icon of my small-turned-big town—the popcorn store, a.k.a “the in-between-store,” because many years ago someone thought to utilize the narrow space between two brick buildings to sell little kids like me popcorn and candy.
Even the necessary updates didn’t take away the fresh nostalgia of this moment.
Best of all, they still sell what I walked or rode my bike literally miles (back in the day) to purchase.
Yesterday, I had another flashback, this time not so very far back but far enough to catch me off guard.
For ten years I had found peace and a place to recharge my soul at Pinery Park, a few blocks from our home in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
This beautiful mile-long path supported my steps four times around every single day that snow didn’t block my way.
I memorized each curve, and as I walked it yesterday, specific memories returned as though it actually were yesterday.
And as I rounded the final curve I came to this. This. You can’t see it, but I can clearly see it!
Ben, 19 years ago, laying out the rules for the family softball game as part of our wedding rehearsal dinner.
John knocking one out of the park.
Mauri running to first.
Even the bride-to-be takes a swing.
And, oh, I see my dear old dad, always in the game, and I hear Ben hollering from the outfield— “SOMEBODY SPOT HIM!”—as we watch Dad twirl and fall to the ground.
He was OK, thank the Lord, but I don’t think Ben has forgiven us yet for our bad judgment.
Yes, I see all of that as I sit on the bench.
But I look up toward my car and I see people, precious-to-me people, family and friends who joined our joy.
Cousins arriving from Florida are greeted at my red carpet. Heather and Quinn look on, all smiles.
Other cousins from Indiana might be resisting the red carpet.
Nearly brothers, hacking, getting acquainted, nervous as all get-out.
I see Mauri’s folks and Margaret-Rose’s folks, who flew across the country to be part of the festivities. Sisters Ev and Ange, always supporting me with their loving care.
And here, possibly on the same bench, sat Dad Williams, now in heaven with all the other parents, except for Mom Edna.
I’m overwhelmed with emotion here on this bench.
So I take a little walk to the other side of the cars and see more fun on this grassy spot. I know, you can’t see it, but it’s so clear to me.
The whole gang enjoying Heavenly Ham box lunches in the July sunshine.
Everyone has one thing in common—love and care for Mauri and me.
We share birthday cake.
We sing and Craig reads a story.
And I’m reminded yet again that I’m about to become one of the Macys.
Yes, it all happened right here, at Pinery Park.