Back Home Again

Apparently one can go back home again – for a visit. That’s what Hubby and I did last spring. We toured my roots, mostly Pennsylvania, with a bit of New Jersey thrown in.

50+ years ago I attended Camp Cherith, nestled in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. At that time it was an all-girls camp connected with Pioneer Girls. Honestly, I never liked Pioneer Girls but I loved Camp Cherith. I learned about camping and swimming and pa-1horseback riding. One summer I worked as a Kitchen Aide in order to stay longer with less expense. I worked with the horses and I learned all sorts of crafts. Most of the counselors came from PCB – Philadelphia College of the Bible. During the school year, once in a while a friend and I would take the train downtown to visit them. Although it’s now a co-ed camp under a different name, we were fortunate enough to connect with the director who had a person give us the full tour. Most was unfamiliar to me except the dining hall, the cabins, the lake and the rock walls. Fond memories!

We visited New Hope, PA and directly across the Delaware River, Lambertville, NJ. Growing up, on the way to visit my New Jersey relatives, we would drive right through these quaint towns but now the new highways bypass it. I always wanted to stop and shop but my dad was the type to “do not stop until we reach our destination.” This was my opportunity!  We bypassed the bypass and found the towns. These two towns are wonderful places to visit, with much history attached. It’s a shame about the new highways as folks are bypassing history.

As we drove down from there toward the rest of my youth recollections, I couldn’t help but notice the rural area all around. I used to say I was from the “suburbs” of Philadelphia, but now I see it was even further out than that. We lived in “the sticks”, a lot of farm country! I recall that no public transportation came out as far as our home and my school bus ride was basically at the end of the line!

We saw the two houses I lived in, growing up.

We drove past the hospital where I was born and 43 years later my dad would die in.

We checked out my grandparent’s row home in Philadelphia. And the alley in the back where my brothers would play kick ball and I would roller skate. Such vivid memories come to mind of my sweet grandparents.

I reconnected with childhood friends – some I hadn’t related to since, well, since childhood. It was interesting to see how we all turned out and the “roads” we took to get there. I think some friends were honestly surprised as to how I turned out. The road I took out of my youth didn’t appear to be headed in a good direction. But eventually God intervened! 

We went to a familiar diner across from the now-closed Willow Grove Navy Base.
We visited friends of my parents – way into their 90’s, who caught us up on all the people I knew all my life from my church. I would have lots to share with my mother later.

And the countryside – ah the countryside. I never appreciated the beauty before, and the history! We passed a Quaker Friends Meeting House and many original stone homes and the Delaware River – you remember, the one Washington crossed! 🙂

I shared with Hubby certain incidents on specific roads, in snow storms and ice storms and driving lessons and the time, at age 10 or so, where my friend and I decided to walk two miles away from my school toward my church. My mother was late picking us up and we were left all alone. (That would NEVER happen today!) I’m sure I was in a lot of trouble, but I’ve blocked that part out! 🙂

pa-2We visited the cemetery where my grandparents, my grandfather’s brothers and their wives, my dad, my brother, my Great-Great Uncle Harry and many, many other relatives are buried; the place where my dad’s brother, who died in 1918 at the age of two from meningitis, was buried. So much history, rich family history!

I’m fairly certain that will be my last visit to “home.”

It’s funny that I still call it home when I’ve lived away from there longer than I lived there. But I suppose “home” means “roots”. And they go deep. I’m so glad I went “home” for a visit!


I would be remiss if I did not make a plug for my recently published book, ‘Papa, Where Are You?’

The house pictured here is part of my heritage and plays a prominent role in my book. If you’d like to purchase ‘Papa, Where Are You?’, click on the link, next to the “About” button above. And be sure to read the reviews!short-hills-1


IMG_0293My son recently arrived home safely from an awesome nine day trip to Ireland with his dad. My two friends arrived home safely from an equally awesome visit to England for 15 days. They were all kind enough to “take us with them” via pics on Facebook and I am delighted for all!

It does, however, remind me of another visit to England many, many years ago. It wasn’t me – it was my mother! My dad had a trip planned to Paris for business and they decided it was a chance of a lifetime so they made arrangements for my mother to fly separately and they would rendezvous in England.

It was my mother’s very first airplane ride and it was all the way from Philadelphia to England – by herself. My dad was flown curtesy of the federal government – his employer so my mother was on her own.

They, too, had a delightful time. I know from the pictures that were later developed and printed. There was no long-distance communication back then – no cell phones, no texting, no Facebook and international calls cost a small fortune. They were gone 3 1/2 weeks.

So while they were gone, there was the matter of what to do with the children – my two brothers and I. It was decided that my brothers would stay with my grandmother, aunt and uncle and cousin in New Jersey. It was the home where my mother was raised and they had a barn to play in, woods to explore and an attic full of treasures to find.

Me? I was farmed out to my aunt and uncle and three cousins (all boys) in Philadelphia. I was nine years old.

Did I mention my cousins where I had to live for 3 1/2 weeks were ALL BOYS?

Actually, at that point, all my cousins were boys, but these cousins were the type that we cringed when we knew they were coming over to visit. Not disciplined, loud and into everything. Apparently I didn’t get a vote and my mother had a mind lapse!

Suffice it to say I had a lousy time. 3 ½ weeks is a long time to be away from my family when you’re nine years old and it certainly seemed longer where I was staying. My cousins were put out because they all had to bunk together since I needed a room of my own. My uncle was the gruff type – used to relating to boys. I was miserable. My aunt seemed to be the only one enjoying the arrangement. She finally had a little girl living under her roof. Whoopee!

The oldest cousin was a year older than me and he basically did the hanging out with me. We could walk to the local movie theater so went one day to the matinee. It was a scary movie – to me. And I got so upset that I demanded to leave in the middle of the movie. That meant he had to leave too. He was quite angry with me. The other two boys were younger and a real pain in the ###. They teased and tormented nonstop. A lot of tears were shed in the confines of my bed during the night.

But my aunt was having such a good time. She bought me dresses and permgave me my first perm. You may remember those home perms in the 50’s? The ones where all your hair is put up in pin curls with bobby pins all over your head and then this stinky stuff is applied all over followed by a plastic bag to cover it all. And then you sit for what seemed like days feeling nauseous from the fumes and being teased by the boys. Sigh.

Finally the 3 ½ weeks ended – the longest most wretched 3 ½ weeks of my life!!! My aunt took me to the airport to pick up my mother. It was back in the day when we could actually go to the gate. Her plane arrived and the folks exited the plane on the tarmac – no fancy contraptions that go out from the gate to the plane door. I was at the window and my nose was peeled to the window. Finally there she was! THERE SHE WAS!!! I waved and waved. I could see her looking up but she didn’t see me!  She didn’t recognize me with my straight hair now all curly and with a new dress on! I think my aunt was a bit hurt that I was so excited at my mother’s return.

When she entered the terminal she spotted my aunt and then finally me.

She was bubbling and going on and on about her trip and her plane ride – all the way back to my aunt’s house and through dinner with them. I just wanted to go home!!!

We did leave eventually and I was so relieved. I imagine my cousins were too. But my aunt, she was sad.

Never again!

My mother is still apologizing. I’ve forgiven her but I haven’t forgotten! 🙂

Then my people will live in a peaceful habitation,

And in secure dwellings and in undisturbed resting places;

Isaiah 32:18



The wedding was lovely!  My firstborn was married!  Everything worked out.  Everyone was happy.

And then we went camping!

Saturday was the wedding; Sunday was the church/chill out day; Monday was camping!

The plan (you know the kind: the best laid plans. . .) was extra family members would be leaving Sunday afternoon and Hubby and I along with Lynn, Claire and Esther would leave Monday morning for Colorado.

One of the families (of six) decided to stay a few days longer at our house, without us!  You know when you’re going on a trip, how you set the thermostat, close all the blinds, set lamps on timers, give key to neighbor with instructions on feeding the cat, bringing in the mail, etc.?  Well, we did a lot of last minute editing.  With extra prayers for our house, our cat and our travels, we left on schedule.

With all the camping gear and all the people and no van, we took two cars.  Hubby and I took the lead while Lynn, Claire and Esther followed.  We had walkie-talkies which had a two mile radius so if we stayed close, we were good.  Cell phones were at a premium then and minutes costly so we opted on the walkie-talkies.

We drove to Denver where we had lined up a pop-up camper to rent for the duration.  I thought I was brilliant!  We were seasoned tent campers but just this once, thought this would be the better, more relaxing way to camp.  Hubby had experience with pop-ups and we didn’t need to haul it cross-country so were pretty proud of ourselves in our planning.  We had purchased and installed the trailer hitch a week before.

Remember about those ‘best laid plans. . .’?  We made it to Denver safely with our two-car caravan.  We located the camper place and began the proceedings.  First problem?  That ball thing on the trailer hitch was the wrong size for the camper.  Of course the camper place didn’t have the right size so Hubby had to go who-knows-where to purchase the correct size.  Meanwhile, we figured small annoyance but no biggie.  We were given a tour of the camper and more instructions than my head could carry while we waited.

Hubby returns with correct part; camper gets hitched up.  Second problem? No brake lights.  NO BRAKE LIGHTS!  No one had a clue why and it was after closing at the camper place so other than hook-up guy who was anxious to get home, pretty much no help anywhere.  Hook-up guy suggests we drive with our second car following closely and that we use walkie-talkies to anticipate/communicate.  Because we were exhausted, stressed, very anxious to get out of Denver before sunset, and apparently all crazy, we agreed.  Lord Have Mercy!!!

Off we went.  We were downtown Denver and heading north to Estes Park.  It was probably the most harrowing experience of my life!  Hubby drove while I narrated.  Hubby had to communicate with me as I shared with the car following.  No brake lights meant no turn signals, no back up lights, no night lights, no anything!!!  If we changed lanes, I needed to communicate that so Lynn and company behind us could be our spotter and make room.  The worst, the very worst problem was braking.  To this day, I remember shouting into that dang walkie-talkie “BRAKING, BRAKING,” about a million times.  We were in rush hour traffic on interstates in a major unfamiliar city trying to get to our first night camping spot before dark.  I cannot believe we weren’t in an accident or at the very minimum, ticketed!

Finally, we got out of town but didn’t make it to our first night campsite until after dark.  With no back up lights – and of course we had to back into our campsite, we all stood around with flashlights yelling instructions to Hubby about how to back up and park that tin can.  That night, there was no campfire and no extra tents.  We all piled into the camper and slept.

The next day we were at it again.  At least we were out of town and off major interstates and we would have daylight.  Finally reaching our destination, we set up camp.  Besides the camper, we had two extra tents – one for Lynn and one for Claire and Esther.  We had all the supplies and gear we needed and it was a lovely spot.  It took me a day to calm down though.  As long as we weren’t driving, I was ok and eventually was able to enjoy the scenery and the whole camping experience which is so dear to me.

One day, (being a bit mechanically inclined) I decided to address the camper light issue.  I couldn’t wait for the others to return from a hike to share what I had uncovered AND FIXED!  It was a fuse.  We changed it, and everything worked!  What a huge relief, not discounting more than a little anger toward the hook-up guy for not thinking about that possibility.

The rest of the time in Estes Park was glorious.  It was beautiful; the days were fresh, the nights were clear, the stars were brilliant.  We had campfire dinners at night and coffee on the Coleman stove in the morning.  We did all the cooking and cleaning up and sitting and reading and hiking and . . .

God’s glory always seems more evident to me in the mountains.  It is so still, so clean and so quiet.

“Be still, and know that I am God. . .” Psalm 46:10a

All too soon, our time was finished.  We were refreshed.  We packed up, loaded up, wistfully bid good-bye to the beauty of that place and special memories made there.  We drove one inch, and the brake lights went out.

It’s amazing how one’s mood can change on a dime!

We were at a loss.  Obviously it was more than a fuse and it was above our pay grade.  We headed back to Denver the same way we came – walkie-talkies in hand.

Going back down the mountain, ‘braking, braking’ all the way, I was on the drop-off side, the cliff side,  the sheer million-mile drop down, no shoulder side of the road. Did I mention Hubby was the one with the driving-while-pulling-a-camper experience?  I was so sure we were going off that cliff, I wanted to yell “dying, dying” into that black box which by now had become a permanent fixture in my right hand.   I wanted to grab the wheel with my left hand.  Instead, I practically sat under the wheel with him, assuming that would keep us balanced and help us from going over the edge.  I’m sure Hubby had already guessed I had gone over the edge!

Fortunately we made it back to Denver in one day, in daylight.  But harrowing, just the same.  We dumped, er, I mean dropped off, the camper and headed back to St. Louis.  Back home, Hubby revisited the trailer hitch place.  They opened the hood, noticed the hook-up wire was laid across something under there, thereby shorting it out when the car was running.   Moving it off that whatever it was, about 5 inches to one side, was the solution.  Fortunately Hubby was there without me so there was no bloodshed.

It’s been almost 14 years since this event, and I try, I really try to recapture the beauty of the mountains and the bonding and the sweet time.  But honestly, the memory, THE memory that always comes flying to my thoughts first is “BRAKING, BRAKING”.  And all who were with me there, if they were honest, they’d agree.  They’re all laughing about it now.  I’m still working on that.