Today was an interesting day. I had two appointments in Maryland, both in my hometown of Rockville. I had not been back in a while. My parents moved in the late ’90’s. Since I had time between meetings, I thought I would check out a few of my old haunts.
Memories are an interesting thing. As I drove by the home I grew up in, I was struck by how small it looked. We were a family of ten, six boys, two girls and Mom and Dad. The house was a 3 bedroom 1 and 1/2 bath with a fourth bedroom carved out of the basement. It didn’t feel small to me growing up. We had a yard to play in and a huge athletic field next to the house to run wild. Oh, the fun we had. I don’t remember being inside alot during hot summer days or cool fall ones either. My parents believed in lots of fresh air and imaginative play. I loved every minute of it. After I drove by the house, I went by my high school. That was shocking. It’s be completely renovated. It doesn’t look anything like I remember. Change waits for no man.
For lunch, I went to my neighborhood Deli and ordered an Italian Cold Cut sub. That tasted exactly the same. I can’t remember how many Sunday afternoons in high school we would have a sub while watching the football games on TV. Go Redskins! Then it was off to the library where I would go with my brothers every Friday night in the summer time to see old movies. “Gaslight” and “Meet Me In St. Louis” were my favorites. This was when I fell in love with musicals and anything made before 1950. What a golden time in the movies. I remember the first time I checked out a “real” book, “Nancy Drew, Secret of the Old Clock.” I was in the third grade and I was so proud of myself. I still love the old Nancy Drew books.
The favorite part of my afternoon stroll down memory lane was spending time at my childhood church and school, the Shrine of St. Jude. When I was growing up, everything happened at St. Jude’s. CYO, Youth Choir, Teen Club, everything. How that has changed in today’s society. So sad. As I sat down in the worn wooden pews, they creaked just like they did back in the day. It has been 35 years since I entered St. Jude’s school in the first grade as a very nervous, slightly terrified first grader. Sr. Joseph Clare, a Bernadine nun was my first grade teacher. She was a tough one, but I survived, barely. After ten years of homeschooling, I appreciate the nuns in a whole new way! They still wear the same colors in the uniform, burgundy and grey. Go Bulldogs! As I knelt to pray a rosary I was overwhelmed by a sense of loss. A loss of time. It moves too quickly these days. I remembered when I received my First Communion on a beautiful spring day in 1974. I was so excited to wear a beautiful white dress and my mother’s wedding veil. I remember writing down all my sins on a yellow legal pad and folding the paper nervously while waiting in line for my first Confession, just praying that Jesus really did love me enough to forgive me. He did!
I prayed at the statue of Our Lady that my little sister crowned as the May Queen. How many May crownings had I been a part of during my time there? So many living rosaries, daily masses as a class, as well as Stations of the Cross every Friday during Lent. I prayed at the statue of St. Joseph where I prayed so many times during my father’s battle with cancer asking him for a happy death for my Dad if that be God’s will. That prayer was answered. I prayed at the statue of St. Jude, the patron saint of families and lost causes. My Dad used to say on occasion, that we were both, so pray really hard! I entrusted my family to him once again.
The most emotional part for me came next. I prayed at the tabernacle where my father had come to beg Our Lord to spare my mother from cancer of the throat. He did, praise God! This was also where I handed my life to God one spring day, after a bad dating experience. I promised Him I would wait to hear his voice on whom I should date. If I was meant to marry, OK. If not, I begged Him to show me the way. The very next weekend I met my husband on a blind date. 22 years later, I praise God for that miracle once again. I also spent time at the baptism font where my precious Courtney was baptised, the same weekend my brother Joe was married. That very evening, we ended up in the emergency room with Courtney’s first seizures. That day changed the course of my life forever, and it started with Mass in this church.
Yes, time flies and things change quickly. New buildings, new businesses, new roads. But memories are like a bunker that you can retreat to every once and awhile. A safe place to go, to thank God for the miracles you couldn’t see at the time, but are so very clear now. I hope that my children will one day walk into the church of their childhood and feel the same way. People and places don’t stay the same, but God is constant and present always. He will always love us and meet us where ever we are, and for that I am ever grateful. It was a joy to go home again.
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