Have you heard the adage that says "you can never go home?" Me too, however I believe I've proved that old saying wrong.
For several years in the late forties, home for me was just outside of Worden, Mt., east of Billings...population...small. I was five and my sister two when our parents divorced, and we left Washington to begin a new life near my mother's family.
I was broken hearted, full of grief and anger; yet soon Montana's magic began to work on me from the inside out. A city kid until then, the country became my personal playground, where the Lord intervened with a four-legged adventure named Brownie. She was old, gentle and exactly what a red-headed-tom-girl needed for escape. On her back, I was the sum total of my dreams...trick-rider, cowgirl roper, or a child who could ride into a place of comfort whenever she wanted. The healing began.
Going into town was a weekly adventure I loved as much as farm life. Memories of tart strawberry ice-cream melting on my tongue and the dusty, acrid smell of the feed store, still float through my mind.
Another vivid recollection is a white stucco building in the middle of town...the movie theater.Bambi was the first movie I ever saw in that place of great imagination. How vibrant yet is the remembrance of intimate anticipation., waiting in the dark until the Lion roared and the music began with a dramatic crescendo. Snuggled in Grandma's lap, we shared Black Jack gum, popcorn, and sometimes a Canadian mint or two.
I still missed my dad, but the attention of family, new adventures, and the discovery of the big screen created an environment of protection and comfort. My parents eventually reconciled, and we returned to the Pacific NW, the way we'd come....by train. I cried the long way back , hoping my grandparents would ship the big brown horse when I got home.
Over the years we had several family reunions in Montana, my last visit being as a teenager. But, life goes on, and so did I, with a piece of Big Sky Country remaining with me always.
My husband and I love to "landsail," that's getting in the car for places unknown for exploration,photography and nature observations. Since he's the photographer, and had never been to Montana, the lure of unexplored vistas put us on the road one brilliant October.
We each had a wish list of places to visit. Worden was on mine for obvious reasons. Would it be the faded memory photo of my childhood? Is is possible to hold onto a piece of innocent time and not be disappointed when allowed to return?
We picked the perfect week for our sentimental journey, having wonderful sun-filled days, and crisp autumn mornings the entire way to Billings. We passed through the Bitterroots, stayed in Red Lodge where we had to scrape clinging frost off the windshield before leaving. The deeper we went into the state, the more my memories stirred.
The day we left for Worden, I prepared myself for disappointment. Knowing how much change could take place in decades of "progress," I wanted to be ready. Nothing looked familiar as we followed the map and road signs. I was silent while picture memories passed through my mind like the highway's mileposts.
When I spotted our turn off, my heart skipped. We were now on the old road from Billings.Searching for Worden's main street, I wondered if I'd recognize it, or even find it after all the encroachment of time and development.
We drove a short distance, and I spotted some buildings on our right. "Stop, this is it," I told my husband. "It's right here. The main street is right here."
We pulled in front of an all brick, vacant building. Peering in the window, I could see worn, hard wood flooring, and evidence of various vacated businesses scattered around. Something stirred' I was certain I remembered standing on those old floors. Was I only imagining the sounds and images that came to mind? This had been the bank! I closed my eyes and I was five, filled with delight. Delight, and something more. I choked back tears to do more ex;oration.
Directly across the street, a hardware business stood where the feed store once thrived, modern metal a substitute for old, fragrant wood. A couple of doors down, another structure begged to be recognized. The movie theater. Only now, it was the American Legion Hall, doors locked and blind pulled. Tempted to look around back for a discarded popcorn machine, or perhaps and abandoned velvet seat, I reasoned against it, wanting my imagination to remain intact with the past's youthful content.
As I continued the explorations, the memory of delight remained and I realized what the "something more" was. Security. That's what this place brought to mind. In the middle of a chaotic decision beyond my childhood control, this little town had been a place of refuge.What had started as a miserable chapter in my life, ended with something good and nurturing.
I'm so very grateful that I had the opportunity to turn back the pages of m life and not be disappointed. As a matter of fact, I've been back often...if only in my mind.
- ▼ 2011 (6)