Home for the Holiday

img_0525It’s been said, “Home is where your mom is.” And so, this Thanksgiving, we went to visit Jon’s mom in a place we’ve never been. Yet, in a way, it felt like home.

Our destination was Symond’s Dutch Hollow Village, described by Google as a “manufactured home community.” Jon’s mom shares a single-wide, two-bedroom, two-bath mobile home with Jon’s nephew, Adam. It’s located in Dutch Hollow, a neat little community of well-kept homes, manicured lawns, and tree-lined streets on the outskirts of Belleville, the city in Illinois where Jon spent many years of his youth and where he was ordained a Catholic priest.

We last visited Jon’s mom two years ago, when she still had her own apartment in Alton, a city about 40 miles to the north. She moved in with Adam to help him with expenses, but doing so meant she would no longer have easy access to friends and acquaintences in close proximity. Her social isolation has taken a toll, so we were determined to bring a little ray of sunshine.

Unfortunately, the weather was overcast and dreary.

We left Dallas on Wednesday at 9 a.m., but the holiday traffic delayed our arrival in Joplin, Missouri, until 5 that evening. But we soon settled into our overnight accommodations and enjoyed Cliff’s pasta fagioli soup. We were on our way again on Thanksgiving morning at 9:30, ensuring our arrival in Belleville around 2 p.m.

Adam greeted us at the overnight area, and we shared a glass of wine as we gave him a tour of Cloud 9. Then we sent him home with the Greenberg smoked turkey we brought from Tyler as we finished setting up. Soon, we were “home,” with Jon’s mom, sister, brother and various other relatives and friends, all ready to start the feast.

And, like many families across the nation, we feasted. In addition to the abundant food, we also enjoyed sharing memories and laughs and stories.

On Friday, we fixed a breakfast feast for eight before setting off on a driving tour of Belleville. We visited the site where Jon and his dad lived on South 6th Street; the old Midland Supply Company, where Jon’s grandmother worked; the cathedral church and chancery office, where Jon’s mom worked for a time; Jon’s old grade school and high school; Jon’s parish church and Boy Scout meeting room; and family homes on 12th Street and Main Street. The old house at 1825 West Main still stands, but the place at 4512 West Main was torn down long ago. The family apartment in the Rob Nora building may not be far from the wrecking ball — it was condemned earlier this year.

We capped our tour with a visit to family graves at Mount Carmel cemetery. We stopped by the graves of Jon’s grandmother, aunt Gertrude and uncle Herman, great-grandparents Mary and Joseph, and his father.

Friday ended with a family dinner at Cloud 9. Cliff grilled steaks, potatoes and cob corn, and Jon’s mom, sister and nephew enjoyed cozy comfort — Airstream style — in our tiny house.

On Saturday, we again made breakfast for all before returning to ready Cloud 9 for the return trip.

A few lessons we learned that are worth sharing:

  1. You can’t go home again.
  2. The people, places and things that shaped who we are will never be the same, and our memories of them have a way of romanticizing the past.
  3. Today, every building seems smaller and every distance seems shorter.