Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Home Town

Going home is a phrase almost anyone can use, anytime, and at any age. For most of us it’s a good thing and it was for me this time with a little twist. I’d add “old” and “town” to the  mix. I went back to my old home town, Pengilly, Minnesota last week. Can you say ‘going home’ about a place you left when you were only seven? I’m here to tell you, you can.

I laughed when my cousin Mike told the ice fishing story. His dad was a real prankster. He surrounded an alarm clock with beer bottles, set it for a few minutes from now and roared with laughter when the alarm rang waking his buddy who crashed them to the floor as he sought to stop the clanging. "Hey pal, time to fish!". I barely remember Uncle Vern, but the rascal in the guy sure came out in that story.

Until I walked into the tunnel that led to the speakeasy, I never would have believed it was there. As a little girl I only saw the glory of the Bovey Mercantile with it’s abundant wares and, at Christmas, shelves full of toys that I probably wouldn’t be getting many of. I sure loved looking though. Now it’s an antiques mall and café. Bovey is one town over from Pengilly and home to Enstrom Studio famous for the picture "Grace". 


Tunnel from the street. Speak easy, now.

Swan Lake is lovely and much bigger than I remember if you can believe it. Things from our past usually seem small when viewed through adult eyes, but not this. It seemed even bigger when my brother Tim took me and my sister Liz on the Boat Ride from He**. Whew. A little choppy out there. We had life vests on so I knew I could survive if we capsized. But who wants to see a chubby, panicked New Yorker flailing around in the water like that?

Birch trees. Oh. Very different from other trees and the ones in Minnesota seem so much whiter than those here in New York. When we were little we’d tear off pieces of the bark and write on it. Turns out that’s not the best thing for the trees, but it’s nice to know we didn’t wipe out the species by doing so.


Caramel rolls from Nana Chelle’s at the antiques mall. Delicious, big, gooey and fattening. ‘Nuff said.

Golf and 99. Two card games I learned how to play in minutes! I come from a long line of card players, but usually a big “DUH” appears over my head when I have to learn a new game. It was only a small “duh” this time.  

Mom and Dad. Went to the Itasca County Historical Society and looked into their senior year high school year books. How could they have ever been so young? Mom was described as a “trim little ship on the ocean of society”.  Pretty cool, huh?

We visited graves of the long dead. Hard to believe some of them were born before the Civil War. I only recognized the names from family chatter around the supper tables of my childhood. Walking over their bones was a little weird, but enlightening just the same.

“They’re just like us.” These words were uttered by cousins on both sides and when my sisters and I met four of them, all girls, we discovered it was true. That came out fully in the late hours of the one night we got to curl up, chow down, play games and yak. How delightful they are: Colleen, Susie, and Kathy. Molly couldn’t make it, but she showed up at the bonfire the next night with a raspberry cheesecake that was so good it got devoured within minutes.

Other notes: Uncle Clarence, 90 ish, spoke of his adventures in WWII.  Fascinating. Mike's daughter Lori has the cleanest kitchen I've ever seen. Four women and one bathroom CAN work. My old elementary school is boarded  up - sniff. Bugs in the headlights look like snow when you're driving along highways through the woods. Ewww. And I got to hug Aunt Shirley, Mom's half sister. She's a real sweetheart!

I'll stop now, but I hope you have similar experiences in your life that bring your “old home town” to you in ways you didn’t expect or can’t imagine as it did for me. It’s what makes us round out and bloom and is especially sweet looking back through the lenses of old age. Or late middle age. Okay, yeah, that’s what I meant. 



  1. Sounds like you had a wonderful time. Glad you shared some of it with us. :) I do like that description of your mom!

  2. It was truly an enchanting experience!