Sunday, September 19, 2010

My Other Home

I've written a little about my mother's hometown and family farm, which were about a hundred miles from where I grew up, and also about Smalltownland, my own hometown, which is almost smack in the middle of the Great Commonwealth of Kentucky. One of the things to which I haven't made much reference is the huge amount of time I spent about forty-five miles away from home in a town called Glasgow.

My beloved uncle-by-marriage was a native of Glasgow, and following his service in the Air Force, graduation from Western Kentucky University, and marriage to my aunt, he returned there with her to start both his business, a successful interior design firm, and a family. Ironically, my father didn't like him originally and opposed him as a suitor for my aunt. They became as close as brothers, and no one mourned his death at forty-eight from a heart attack more than my father.

When I was an infant, Uncle Paul purchased an English perambulator or pram, one of those hooded baby carriages, for my use when I visited them. A few years ago I struck up a conversation in a surgeon's waiting room with a man from Glasgow, and asked him if he knew any of my three first cousins. He got very quiet, and then he said, "You're the baby girl! The baby girl they used to wheel up and down the street in the baby carriage!" He was their next-door neighbor, and a classmate of the oldest cousin. People knew me for that, and because I was the little girl who haunted the display window and upholstery shop at the design firm.

Tonight, when I arrived at Glasgow High, I was greeted by signage that startled me a bit: Hank Royse Stadium. Hank was Uncle Paul's brother-in-law, and the longtime "Voice of the Scotties"- and indeed, someone I knew very well. When the band contest sponsorships were read, I picked out the names of my cousins' friends, or the children of my aunt and uncle's friends, and the funeral home out of which my Glasgow relatives have all been buried. All of my cousins marched in the Scottie Band, and it was due to their badgering and my aunt's that my father relented and allowed me to join the Smalltownland High School Band. Their director was the stuff of legend, and his portrait hangs inside the Barren River Lodge just to the left of the entrance; after retiring as band director, he went on to be mayor of Glasgow for several terms. The first time I saw that portrait, I caught my breath, because I knew Honeycutt- and my uncle designed that lodge. It was a perfect storm of remembrance and loss...

Uncle Paul is buried in the Glasgow City Cemetery near old Glasgow High, from which he graduated. He died in 1978, when I was nine, and sometimes when I was living at home for my previous library job, I'd drive over in the evening to visit his grave. No one in my family knew about this, and I've never written or spoken of it to anyone until now. He thought I was the smartest thing he'd ever seen, and I adored him. I wanted my father to be more like him, and when he died, I began to feel the loss of his moderating influence on Dad very keenly. The stress of fixing everyone else's messes took its toll; I believe that it's what caused the heart attack that killed him.

The friend with whom I was sitting earlier in the evening wandered off to attend to his duties as an instructor with one of the bands, which I suppose is just as well. I found the parents of one of my bandmates and moved down to sit with them, beginning a subtle diplomatic process to smooth over a bump in his job-seeking; it distracted me a little from the weight of the place. I connect important events and people with places, and I had long made a habit of avoiding driving all the way into Glasgow. I was happy there, once, a very long time ago, and now everyone and everything that I loved about it is gone.

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