Something New Is Coming To Town
There’s a new park being built in my hometown. They’ve been working on it for about three years, even longer if you add all the years of planning. I’ve been a witness to the progress every time I’ve driven on one of the main thoroughfares in town; usually to church, downtown for lunch with a friend or to a doctor’s appointment.
I’ve lived in my hometown all of my life, so I’ve seen many changes. Years ago, the space where the park is being built was a large rail yard with trains coming through carrying goods from one place to another. In the 1980’s the rail yard closed and most of the tracks were removed. For the next couple of decades it was just a large, undeveloped natural area with patches of woods. Every time I drove across a certain bridge, I could look down on the property. Not much to see.
Things started changing a few years ago. The land was cleared except for several beautiful old oak trees. Roads and trails were marked out then buildings slowly began emerging. You could see where a lagoon was dug. With each drive over the bridge, there was something new to see.
One of the buildings closest to the road is a large building for events like weddings, meetings or parties. It’s an attractive building with a modern look. The landscaping around it took shape and added to it’s appeal. Last Christmas, my family was able to take a tour of the facility and it was indeed spectacular. I could imagine a wedding reception or perhaps a class reunion being held in the spacious hall.
An Annual Tradition
My family, on my mother’s side, has a big family reunion every summer in Cairo, Georgia which is about thirty miles over the Florida state line. We’ve been making the pilgrimage to Cairo for over sixty years. It’s really quite the event. (I’ve written about it before, here, here and here.) It’s something that has been ingrained in every Blanton in our family tree born since the 1930’s.
Earlier this year, we were presented with the opportunity to have our family reunion in my hometown at the new park. It was a unique, one-time opportunity and the matriarchs and patriarchs of the family decided it might be fun for a change. Something different.
It turned out to be an enjoyable event. The space was lovely and more than large enough for our family. I think the headcount ended up being about 130 people. There were plenty of bathrooms and a kitchen larger than the cooks were accustomed to. There was space for our annual corn hole tournament and places to sit and have a conversation with a cousin.
Memories Create Meaning
The first time I drove across that bridge after our reunion and looked over at the developing park, I noticed something different. I no longer saw a building made of concrete, glass and iron. I looked down and saw children playing on scooters and adults playing corn hole. I saw cousins greeting each other across the parking lot as they made their way in for dinner. I saw little girls fishing tadpoles out of the fountain.
Now, each time I see that building, I will remember a special weekend of family and friends.
It’s like that with special places isn’t it. I often drive by our old house when I’m running errands in town. It’s not just a two-story gray house on Success Avenue. No, it’s the place where I brought my babies home from the hospital. When I drive by our old church, I remember my years growing up in the church, especially the homecoming dinners on the ground and my wedding as well. Other places in town bring back the memories too; the house where I grew up, my elementary school, even shopping centers where I spent a lot of time during my teen years.
It’s interesting that a church, place of business or house can simply be a physical structure for one person but to another carry a world of memories and meaning. A shack on the beach, a hut in Africa or a small apartment building can have more meaning to someone than a palatial mansion. It’s the people who lived, loved, laughed and cried in a particular space that make it special.
How about you? Is there a building that holds strong memories for you? I would love to hear about it.