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BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL

“Are we there yet?    “Do we hafta go home?”   “Can’t we stay another few days?”

* * *

Summer is over. School is in session. No more whining about getting there or coming back. It’s another ended-vacation, no matter where or when, no matter how long or how short.

FIN. THE END. FINIS.

And next year? “We have time to talk about that. Do your homework now.”

The essay “What I Did Last Summer” has already been turned in, been graded, and returned. “Excellent!” “Nice Story.” “Sounds Like Fun.” “Oh, I Hate Spiders, Too!” “I’ve Never Been There. Glad It Was Enjoyable.” A++

And so it goes–or went.

I have never been in the military, never have been deployed, never have been separated for months and months at a time in a foreign country.

Oh, I have been on some very short vacations as a child–weekends in South Bend or in Dowagiac, Michigan. Longer adult vacations in England, Turkey, France, Greece. And July summers at school in Cambridge, England.

Memorable vacations with friends, family, scouts, students.

But always–always–I had to come “home,” wherever that was at the time.

This past summer I returned to Florida (with my wife, and a cat) from our 11th summertime in Ohio.

Ohio is not a foreign country. But what a difference from our life in Florida!

It is a different world–a “whole new world”–if one wants it to be.

welcome to ohio

The TripTik trip is 1100 miles (like “forever” to leave Florida). And then, after rest stops, potty stops, burgers-on-the-road, crossing states’ lines, motel rooms, changing drivers, fuel stops, napping and dozing–finally! “We are there! Finally!”

Entrance to Epworth Park

ENTRANCE TO EPWORTH PARK

Then we do our “summer things,” with friends, family, and other park-vacation dwellers.

We have arrived: Cottage #16

?

We are now Deployed in Ohio. We are IN-COUNTRY: being or taking place in a country that is the focus of activity (such as military operations or scientific research) by the government or citizens of another country.” Sometimes we feel we have time-travelled, back to the 1880s:

morristown residents

                                 MORRISTOWN, OHIO

Now there exists time to do “stuff.” To spend time in activities. To have time for reading and quiet time. (“NO TELEVISION! We are on vacation!”) To watch the lake–for hours. To feed the ducks. To walk to the post office. To garden Ohio flowers. To enjoy the quiet in the evening (though silence is sometimes shattered by an occasional Air National Guard C-130 “practicing” over the village of 800 persons, and 60 cottages). But normally, the crickets and the frogs and the owls and the geese provide their evening and night symphonic repertoires.

I have crossed over (the Ohio River). I live a different life. Some years back, I read In Country by Bobbie Ann Mason (1985). This past summer, perhaps somewhat nostalgic and “moody,” I kept remembering the book, and the film with Bruce Willis.in country poster

Awareness of my past time reading the novel and viewing the movie was significant. There was some kind of heightened response this past summer to my being “in the world but not of the world.” Perhaps because we were able to have more time there, not just a “quick weekend?” Perhaps. Time there is filled with memories of others who tell stories of the “before” of the Park. And ghosts? Certainly they reside in the walls and around the trees.

morristown cemetery

                                           MORRISTOWN, OHIO, CEMETERY

Time does not ever stand still: the same 24 hours a day. But still melds into quick time and the days go faster and faster. The end gets closer; we count the “sleeps” until packing the car, closing down the blinds, taking down the hummingbird feeders.

It is time to go. Back to The World.

The drive leaving is quiet. Not much talking. The first hour in the car winds down, and the Ohio River Crossing nears.

ohio river bridge 800px-Williamstown_Bridge_WV

“Over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house we go….” Not quite. We leave Ohio. In the rear-view mirror In Country slowly disappears as the car climbs up the hills of the river’s valley. We have crossed over.

The trek home really begins here, from this point. It will be burgers and stops and motel beds for the thousand miles remaining. There will be fog and rain and heat and cool air conditioning in the car. And spilled snacks, and lane changes–and maybe an occasional highway patrol car watching our movements.

Then The World Approach can be seen. We cross over, another river divide.

welcome-to-florida-sign-20140116

WELCOME BACK…WELCOME!

“It won’t be long now.”

“WEEEEERRRRREEEE BAAAACK!”

We have returned, been returned safely, to Florida. All went well. No major problems, no delays.

Soon we are greeted; the vacation ending is looming larger:

Welcome to St Pete 2

GREETINGS ON I-275 FROM TAMPA

The forgetting begins. We’re home. We cannot forget there, but now we have to remember: what drawer holds the forks; what cabinet houses the packs of Kool-Aid; where the peanut butter jar is; and, certainly, where we are to put the dirty laundry from the trip home.

We are home. It’s really different here.

mission oaks condo

MISSION OAKS: SEMINOLE, FLORIDA

However, we have our memories of a time to nurture us, until next time.

© James F. O’Neil 2015

The AvenueNOW AND THEN:

Early Epworth Park Photo b

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By: James F. O’Neil

I have a small wooden sign in my man-cave with the words “home,” “story,” and “begins.”

What a neat sign with a neat saying.

Many craft stores, country gift shops, and little antique storefronts have made these kinds of signs popular, signs of warm, fuzzy slogans or aphorisms or “down-home” good feelings.

We like to buy these, put them on walls expressing that “Family Is Everything” or over a bed “Always Kiss Me Goodnight” or in a study “Home Is Where Your Story Begins.”

Perhaps “This Is As Good As It Gets” might be found over a door in a summer cottage. 

Cottage #16, of the original 100 cottagesThus it begins: a vacation, a story (“What I Did Last Summer”), a life, a death, a beginning or an ending, a love (“Love Is Blind”), stress (“Keep Calm And Carry On”), or friendship (“BFF”)–or one I really do like: “Love’s Last Gift Is Remembrance.” 

Saying from Hastings BenchStories are everywhere, where we look to see or find them.  And if “Home Is Where The Heart Is,” then that is where a story can begin. 

We must tell our story: “Once upon a time, when I was six and living with my grandmother, …”    Our listeners depend on it.

© James F. O’Neil  2013

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