Consider the photograph of this Adirondack region lake a postcard from my recent vacation in upstate New York. On the back of this virtual postcard are the words I used for the title of this column: having a good time, wish you were here.
I visited my hometown recently. I try to go back once a year to visit relatives and friends who stayed there while I moved on. It’s always good for me to go back. With my hometown being nearly three-thousand miles away from Merced County, it’s a challenge to make the trip.
This year’s trip was nothing unusual. I arrived jet lagged from nearly twelve hours of flying and waiting on planes at three airports. The final leg of the airplane journey had me flying over the campus of Syracuse University where I earned my bachelors’ degree over thirty years ago.
I crammed in a short visit with a college friend before making my way to relatives. I attended a ceremony honoring outstanding students at Herkimer County Community College where my higher education journey began.
I saw a good friend who is coping with dialysis and all its’ complications. Another friend was unavailable due to a prolonged hospitalization from his dialysis issues. A third friend wasn’t burdened with health problems so our visit was more upbeat than the others.
I spent a lot of time with my dad and my brother. I saw the neighbors and even spent a few moments with the son-in-law of a family friend who passed away since the last time I visited. I joined my dad for his weekly visit to the local senior housing facility where we played cards with some of the residents. This was my third consecutive year playing cards with the residents there. My dad does it every week.
My hometown has changed a lot in the three decades since I left to pursue my career. Three major employers in my hometown and surrounding communities have closed. Some of the jobs lost have come back through expansion of existing businesses and the attraction of new companies.
A lot of jobs disappeared forever. Main Street in my hometown once boasted two grocery stores, a bank, hardware store, flooring store, Laundromat, two diners, and three taverns. That same area now claims two of the three taverns, and one small grocery store. Three newer businesses occupy some of those vacant buildings. But it’s not the same.
I reached an accommodation of my hometown many years ago. I accept that it may never be the same town I left after I graduated from college and left to pursue my career. The village has changed, just like many places have changed over the years. I take it all in stride. Many of my family members still live there, and they would likely never move. It’s home.
I do take a lot of pride in the community that helped raise me as a boy. All the churches that were there back in the 1960s and 1970s are still operating. The volunteer fire department is going strong and is relied upon by the citizens.
The Firemen’s Auxiliary recently marked fifty years of existence and claims a handful of charter members still active in the organization. The community came together this spring to hold a fundraiser for one of my buddies coping with dialysis.
And there’s the natural beauty of the place. That’s why I took the picture of Brantingham Lake, a small body of water near my hometown. I keep it within view on my desk. It’s a reminder of what may have attracted people to settle down in Lewis County, New York in the first place. I know that scenes like this keep me coming back year after year.
I enjoyed my visit back east this spring. I’ll be back again next year.
Steve Newvine lives in Merced