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Friday, October 2, 2015

Down Memory Lane

I recently returned from a three-day trip with my sister to visit several places from our childhood. We jokingly referred to it as our 'Thelma and Louise ' trip, although there were no guns and Brad Pitt was unfortunately absent.

We began our trip by visiting the hospice where our dad died and seeing for the first time the memorial brick we had installed in the courtyard. Then we made a rain-soaked visit to the cemetery in the northwest suburbs of Chicago where our parents are buried. We then had lunch at my dad's favorite restaurant. We even got to sit in the booth where he always took his meals.

The next morning we headed south on Interstate 57. We located the graves of our paternal uncle and grandmother, as well as of our great-aunt and -uncle. After making a quick trip to purchase some silk flowers, we returned to put the flowers and vases in front of the graves. My sister's memory served us well and led us straight to the house of our great aunt and uncle. which later was occupied by my uncle after they died. With the help of Google maps, we were able to locate the large brick house where my grandmother lived for several years. Sadly, it is definitely showing its age.

From there we continued our journey south.  We spent some time visiting the campus of the university from which we both graduated. I hadn't been there in more than 35 years, so the campus and campus town had changed a great deal. I enjoyed visiting the library where I spent many hours as a student and part-time employee. The big room that used to hold the card catalog is now filled with computer stations for students.

Continuing our journey south, we eventually found the town square of the small town where some of our relatives once lived and located a delightful little barbecue place on the outskirts of town.  After lunch we continued south, stopping at the cemetery where our maternal grandparents and aunt and uncle are buried.  As I walked through this small, old cemetery, I was struck by the graves of so many children who had died either at birth or early in infancy.

As I visited these cemeteries -- all of them quite old -- my interest in photographing some of the older and more interesting headstones was piqued. I haven't yet figured out the best approach to take to photograph old headstones, but I think it could be a fascinating project for me. There is so much history and so many stories in those headstones.

We concluded our road trip with a lovely evening with my second cousin, her husband and two teenage sons. I got a quick tour of the property where my maternal aunt and uncle used to live. The house has been torn down and vegetation has taken over much of the land. But the family has plans to eventually clear the land and perhaps build on it. The house where my grandparents had lived, and where I and my siblings had spent many happy summer vacations, had been torn down decades ago and replaced with a newer, more modern dwelling.

I had not seen my cousin since she and her mom -- my cousin -- lived in Southern California when she was 15 years old. Since that family gathering, we have reconnected on Facebook.  I don't have a lot of family members, so it's always great to reconnect with those I do have.

So Thelma and Louise completed their road trip and had a good time along the way. I got to spend time with my sister, whom I don't often see, to reconnect with my cousin and meet her family and to pay our respects to long-lost relatives.