I consider the days of old; the years long past I remember. Psalm 77:6-7
A few weeks back, I heard that my youngest brother, Mark, bought the old house I was born in, as well as the General Store/Post Office next door, down in Rhodelia, Ky. He asked us if we would like to take one last tour of the original old home place (at least for the first five of us) before he tore it down.
I proposed that we meet on June 9, to celebrate the birthdays of both of my brothers (June 2 and June 8). I picked up some boxed lunches from Panera, my sister packed a cooler of drinks and I met up with all my siblings, my brother-in-law Randy, my niece Terry, my nephews Eric and David, two old childhood neighbors, Packy and Joy Vessels, as well as the last two owners of the old General Store, Johnny and Sandy Vessels.
As we sat in the old store/post office and ate lunch, we told story after story about growing up on our version of “Walton’s Mountain.”
After lunch, we walked around the property and told more stories and finally we went into the old house and told even more stories. One of my sisters recorded most of it on her video recorder to be savored this winter at our annual Christmas dinner and home Mass together.
On the way back to Louisville, I was particularly aware of how much we laughed, how much the rooms of the store and house seemed to have shrunk over the years, how surprised we were that nobody got killed or seriously hurt and how grateful we all seemed to be for the simple, and often very difficult, times we remembered together. As we recalled the hard times, we all seemed to agree that what made it bearable was the fact that everybody we knew down there basically went through the same hardships while growing up in the 1940s and 50s.
It came up over and over again how interdependent we were in that little town. Property lines meant little. Neighbors helped neighbors! Everybody looked out for everybody else’s kids. People shared what they had. Relatives visited relatives every Sunday and shared big home-cooked meals while kids roamed freely.
It was a simpler time — a harder time, in many ways. Would I want to go back? Absolutely not! Am I happy I went through it? Absolutely, yes! As Johnny Vessels reminded me, “It all went together to make us who we are!”
On the way home, I was reminded of something from the Roman philosopher, Seneca: “Things that are hard to bear are sweet to remember.” All of us have been through some difficult times that we can look back on and smile. What’s yours?
Father J. Ronald Knott