They say you can’t go home again but you can visit.
This is what we did with my mom on a recent trip to her hometown of Mt. Vernon, Indiana. I wanted Max and Calvin to see where she grew up and where my brother and I spent a lot of time during our own childhood.
It was magical. My mom brought along a book of photographs she had bought her parents; she had marked for us various places we might see on our trip.
We started the day in the lovely and historical New Harmony, Indiana, which was as fascinating to the boys as it was to me as a child.
We then drove on to Mt. Vernon where we visited my grandparents’ graves, their former homes and my mom’s friends, Susan and Will.
When we stopped in front of the house where my mom grew up, I was also interested to see the house of her former neighbor, Mrs. Ruth Hanshoe. I remember going into her kitchen as a child and she had a world map on the wall. Pins marked the many destinations she had visited.
Last year, Calvin and I read a book Mrs. Hanshoe had given my mom for Christmas as a girl – Eleanor Estes’ The Hundred Dresses. Illustrated by Louis Slobodkin, this is an evergreen story about kids being mean and learning that there are consequences.
When Calvin and I first read this book, I asked my mom about Mrs. Hanshoe. I was curious about this woman who was a world traveler and encouraged children to read. My mom shared that she was a second grade teacher and her husband was a farmer.
“They had a cottage on the Ohio River and we would go there for pitch-in suppers,” my mom, Mary Alice, said. “She was a wonderful neighbor and teacher. She was sweet and kind and liked kids.”
My mom recalls that she was so tiny that the day they first met her, my uncle thought she might be a child. When my mom graduated from high school, Mrs. Hanshoe came over to visit wearing her own high school graduation dress and it still fit!
I’m so glad we took this trip with my mom. My husband and kids were interested or at least patient with this sentimental trip and seemed to enjoy hearing our stories about our childhoods and my dear grandparents.
When I asked them what their favorite part of the trip was, here’s what they reported:
“I liked seeing Gigi’s house and the Ohio River and the swings there,” said Calvin.
“I liked the cabin with the hole where you could see the world upside down, “said Max.
(He is describing a pinhole where you really could see the outside projected upside down once your eyes adjusted to the dark.) I found a blog post about New Harmony that mentions this cabin; I recommend it.
When you give a book, sign it! Some day a writer or reader may find it and be curious about you.
(As a sentimental writer, I’ve written about my grandparents in the past. Check out this post about them and the book The Secret Garden.)