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Journey Home

Most of us have a place that resonates. Amherst, Mass. resonates for me. I went to high school there. I transferred to college there. I came back and was married there, even though my parents had moved away several years before. The college on the hill belongs to me. The town belongs to me. And even the University belongs to me in a more disconnected way. My sister went there for two years and I visited her when I was in 7th and 8th grades. I slept on her floor and went to see a Jefferson Airplane concert, among other concerts. My mother was born no more than 30 miles from there and my father grew up no more than 50 miles from there. He also went to the college on the hill, my mother to the college over the mountain (as opposed to over the river).

Miss E thought the campus looked pretty and asked to go see it. She had two days off of school, so off we went. The trip was cut a day short, but we still managed to see the new fossil museum, which is quite stunning. I knew about these fossils, but had never seen them before. I showed her where I lived, where her grandfather lived. Despite her complaints, we climbed the back stairs of Johnson Chapel and she stood in the very spot her mother and father were married by her grandfather, thirty years ago.

I showed her where I had lived while in high school. And where my father bought a lot, but never built on it. The hemlock twigs he planted are a 20 foot high hedge now. They've been that height for a while. They didn't seem any higher than when I last saw them, a decade ago. I pointed to a 60-foot pine and said, "That was my Christmas tree." She said, "That was NEVER a Christmas tree. It's too big."

But it was. There should be three Colorado Blue Spruce trees on that lot, all about the same age. In the same tradition that Miss E and her father go out to cut down a tree each year, I went out to a tree farm with my father. Only he dug up the tree, balled it in burlap, and then planted it around 12th night. Which, if the ground were frozen, couldn't have been easy. And this massive tree still stands on that lot with a story to tell of the man who didn't kill it, but instead respected its right to live and thrive.

Another house, another part of town, and this is where my mother made her huge rya rug while watching the House of Representatives debate whether to impeach President Nixon. She has many unfinished craft projects. This is one of the finished ones. Hours every afternoon in front of the television, knotting bits of yarn and cutting the loops.

I was the only child still living at home and the Amherst years really belong to myself and my parents. It's difficult for me to imagine that they were my age then. And then I remember their 30th wedding anniversary occurred in those years we lived there.

Miss E was fascinated by some of the stories, though she really didn't want to stay. She wanted to go home to her own place, a house she recently compared to being her castle, complete with cats. Me? I want to go back and spend at least a week in Amherst.

Frog Out

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