There are people who feel they can’t go home again. But for me, that’s not the case because I’m in my hometown of Sanford at least twice each week to visit Mama. Since it’s just a fifty-minute drive, I often have occasions to get together there with my family and friends. We sometimes eat in new restaurants that are in renovated buildings of the Sanford I knew as a child. Part of me wants to go back to my hometown as if I’m on a pilgrimage, and see it with new eyes.
Back in the sixties, when I was in elementary school, children had a more limited circle of acquaintances than now—with all their sports and enrichment activities. The people I knew beyond my family included our neighbors that were across the fields from our farm, fellow members of Shallow Well Church that was a mile from our house, and classmates at Jonesboro School that was three miles away. Now when I drive around the town and see areas that I never saw as a girl, I think about how limited my view was in childhood.
My first stop on my pilgrimage home is to the newspaper, The Sanford Herald. Years ago when I was writing a novel, I’d gone there to do research. Now I’m surprised that they’ll still let me into their room of bound copies of the papers. I pull out the volume with the issue from my day of birth– March 22, 1955.
I leaf through the pages, carefully turning them to prevent a tear. It feels amazing to have in my hands a newspaper that was produced when I was a newborn just a short distance away. That old hospital is now a government office and social services. I see that I was born on a Tuesday.
When I looked at the newspaper as a teen, I’d glance the front page then go to the social and sports pages– hoping to read about someone I knew. In my birthday edition, I see that Jonesboro Heights, the part of town I rode through each day on the bus, had a Garden Club that met in our school cafeteria. On the Social Highlights page, the club article on the upcoming meeting said that a study of Lilies and Caladiums would be presented by Mrs. J. H. Worthy and Mrs. J. M. Lloyd. That makes me smile, thinking of those women gathered while Mama would have been in her own ‘garden club’– along with Daddy, planting acres of vegetables, shucking a pickup bed full of corn, and canning string beans until the wee hours of a July morning.
Also on the social page, there’s an announcement of the Coterie Rook club that was entertained at the home of Mrs. Ross Pittman. The article reports that after the group played “several progressions of bridge” they were served a salad course with coffee. Years later I would know women who had played in card clubs, but not Mama. She was either too busy or uninterested.
The advertisement for Efird’s Department Store has cotton print dresses for $2.95, a creation of Top Mode Frocks. I don’t remember buying any from there– and purchased few from other stores. Mama made most of our clothes. She was very skilled and seemed to enjoy creating something of beauty as well as a necessity. While other women were shopping in the stores, Mama was sitting at her Singer, cranking out dresses for her three daughters. Now I go into the fabric section of craft stores and walk down the aisles, remembering my excitement over picking out the cloth and pattern for a new outfit. How fascinating it was to watch Mama produce a dress that looked as good, or better, than the one on the Simplicity pattern.
I leave the Herald office and drive to Parkview in time to feed Mama her dinner. Brought into the present, I’m reminded of my special, hard-working mother from those years of childhood. Part of the boon, or blessing you return with from a pilgrimage, is a broader perspective of your life.
How about You?
Where would you like to return to from your childhood?
How might that become a pilgrimage of discovery?