Looking at Home From Far Away

Feb 5, 2016

Sunrise in the Ozark Mountains
Credit Thomas McFarland

This is Marideth Sisco for These Ozarks Hills. I've often heard it said that home never looks as good as it does when you're far away. I've had occasion to verify that notion on a number of occasions, and now I'm doing it again.

I slipped away early in January to make a run for the coast, partly for some R&R, and partly to finish up some research begun some time back and missing some pieces. Spent a good bit of time with friends on the Mississippi Sound at Ocean Springs, watching the waves, soaking up the light and eating way too much seafood (if there is such a thing) and then moved on to Florida to visit more friends and see a part of the state I'd not seen before.

While there, a friend from so long ago in my life we had trouble counting up the years, flew down from Vermont and joined me for a brief stay. Once upon a time, a time of brash youth and misadventures, we knew each other well, or thought we did, and it turns out we still do, although our paths have taken us in wildly different directions in the intervening years. We had much to talk about – lots of sharing, lots of laughing, a few tears.

But what came to me after a little while, is that this person is one of the only people remaining on earth with whom I share that memory of a long ago bit of time, a time that was highly formative in molding the direction my future would take. Yet it's a time I rarely call to mind, for it was also very painful, and I am not often called to return there.

It encompassed the years just after my parents died and I was, at 23 and an only child, left to make my way on my own. Heaven knows what might have become of me, living then in the cradle of change that was northern California in the 60s, had it not been for what Phil Ochs would call "A Small Circle of Friends."

Janet was one of those. While she was here, I told her about the movie and my two bouts with cancer. She spoke of her delightfully creative daughter and the death of her son. Then we turned to the old days, packing the triumphs and tragedies of our choices and those of the world around us then into 3-1/2 days of marathon storytelling, before a backdrop now not of the California coast, nor New England, and not the Ozarks, but Florida's wild prairie, the tame as chickens sandhill cranes, and wonderfully preserved history of life in the Florida of earlier days.

It occurred to me Sunday as I sent her off on the plane homeward we had pretty thoroughly threshed out that time when we weren't at all sure there would be a future. And for some of us there wasn't.  Yet here we are today, the old ladies I remember from my childhood, who'd sat rocking and laughing and telling tales, or sent long letters full of reminiscences to my grandmother from their far off homes where they'd gone to live with children.

Time passes, and we are all carried along with the flow to our divergent destinations. I remember asking an elderly gent once if he had lived in that town his whole life, and he replied "Well, not yet." It is true that neither Janet nor I consider our lives to be nearly over. Not yet.

There are still journeys ahead and stories to tell for me, and musical theater and dancing the tango for Janet. We're still going, and going strong, if not in body then certainly in mind and spirit. As another old fellow said, "I can do everything I ever did. I just do it slower." Me too. And smarter, I hope. And with more appreciation for the blessings in my life as I go along.

Just now as I write this, I'm sitting next door to alligators. But in a few days I'll be headed home to my beloved Ozarks, where there is woodsmoke on the breeze, gardens almost ready for planting, and nobody speaks with an accent.

I can't promise this jaunt down east has made me older and wiser, but I'm enjoying every inch of the road toward a still unknown destination, but whose next stop is in These Ozarks Hills.

This is Marideth Sisco. Thanks for listening.