This post by Gayle M. Irwin
Earlier this month my husband and I traveled through and to several states to visit friends and family, covering several thousand miles. Last week I wrote my thoughts on four-footed friends that have impacted my life. This week I’m remembering the two-footed friends and family that those 4,000-miles brought to heart and mind, some of whom we visited.
Greg and I spent time with his family in North and South Carolina and with some of my relatives in Mississippi. We also shared great times with a few of his friends, including one whom Greg hadn’t seen in more than 40 years – they had been good friends in high school but had lost touch over the years. That happens to many of us and made me think about the advantages of Facebook, email, and texting. Reconnecting with people who played a major role in one’s life is important, and the older I get, the more I recognize that fact.
I grew up in Iowa but haven’t lived there since I was 17 years old. I’ve been back for visits periodically over the years, however, since my maternal grandmother died in 1990, those visits have been very few. My mother was an only child and so was I, therefore, direct family no longer lives in Iowa. I do have several childhood friends, however, that I enjoy sharing time with, and I hope to do that again in the near future. My last visit was nearly four years ago – I do hope to return, perhaps for a booksigning with the latest muse as well as visits with my friends. Burlington has a wonderful bookstore downtown, called Burlington by the Book, and in 2012 I had a signing there and several of my childhood friends came by. I believe it’s time for another one day soon!
Greg’s friend in St. Louis, whom he hadn’t seen in nearly 40 years, met us at Busch Stadium where the St. Louis Cardinals were playing the Milwaukee Brewers. The game was GREAT! With the Cards winning 7 to 1. And my husband, who loves his St. Louis Cardinals (Greg graduated from a high school in St. Louis in 1973) spent most of the game catching up with his friend, who is a chiropractor in the city. They reminisced and shared about their lives today. After the game, a fireworks display reminded us of the upcoming 4th of July, and thereafter, Greg and I and Patrick and his girlfriend met shared a few hours at a neighborhood bar, sitting outside in the warm night air, sharing, laughing, and learning. It was a fun night!
A week later we were in Mississippi staying at my cousin’s house. I hadn’t seen her since I was 17 years old; she was about 10 then. As adults, we connected via Facebook and have been following each other and with me learning more about her family, including the fact her youngest son is in the movies – he’s one of the young boys in Free State of Jones. Greg and I saw the movie before our trip, and we both agree Cade Mansfield Cooksey did an excellent job! While we visited at their home, we met the family dogs (my cousin Lynette is also a big pet fan, especially regarding dog rescue) and also reconnected with my uncle and aunt, Lynette’s parents; Greg and I had seen them in St. Louis of all places about six years ago when we went to a ballgame and they were in town for a convention. It was fun to reconnect with the family!
Visiting Greg’s family in North and South Carolina was also very enjoyable. I had not been out there in more than eight years. Our sister-in-law took a day off work and drove me to Carolina Beach along the Atlantic Ocean. I rarely have opportunity to see the ocean so it was a very special day for me. Greg spent each of the four days we were there with his brother and his mother and had a wonderful time. I, too, enjoyed sharing time with them, and as a family, we all gathered for a grill-out on July 4 and then a picnic at a park near my mother-in-law’s senior apartment complex the next day.
My parents will be visiting later this week. My dad turns 80 on July 28, and we are planning a small gathering of friends at our cabin on Saturday to celebrate. I was blessed to help celebrate their 56th wedding anniversary last month with a trip to Yellowstone and Teton national parks, where we shared day trips in and around the park. My parents have had a major influence on me through the years, especially regarding appreciation for nature and animals. We spent many times during my childhood camping and traveling, being outdoors and raising animals. I look forward to hosting my parents and to celebrating dad’s special day; having the cabin is an added benefit and my parents enjoy being there — the outdoor force is certainly strong in my family!
Even though Greg and I didn’t get to spend time in Iowa, I certainly thought a lot about my childhood residences (we first lived in Burlington then moved to a small acreage about 15 miles north) as we drove through Nebraska and Missouri in particular. I, too, was (and am) a Cardinals fan (made a great fun rivalry with my mother and grandmother who were Cubs fans) and one time Dad took me to visit Laura Ingalls Wilder’s home outside Mansfield (how appropriate – that’s my maiden name!), Missouri; Greg and I also visited the Wilders’ Rocky Ridge Farm in 2007. A stop in Nebraska during this July trip took us to HyVee Grocery Store, which I remember well from my childhood as Burlington also had/has HyVee – I got to see Santa and his reindeer there when I was eight – and Sterzings Potato Chips, which are made in Burlington and are a major LIKE for me and my parents, were on the shelf.I bought two bags: one package now awaits my parents’ arrival this week; Greg and I ate the other as we completed the trip and finished it after we returned (it’s been difficult to NOT eat that second bag!).
That 4,000-mile drive earlier this month helped remind me of the importance of family and friends. Memories of yesteryear still impact me today, and I’m grateful to the people in my life who have helped shape it. I hope you, too, have wonderful childhood memories and that you are able to stay connected with the people who have positively impacted your life.
Gayle M. Irwin writes inspirational pet stories for children and adults. She is the author of six books, some for children and some for adults and families, and is a contributing writer to six editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul. She is also one of the writers featured in Memories from Maple Street USA: Pawprints on My Heart, released in July from Sundown Press, with a story about the positive life lessons dogs can epitomize. The book is available in both e-format and print format. Learn more about this new publication at http://sundownpress.blogspot.com/2016/07/new-release-memories-from-maple-street.html. Learn more about Gayle and her writing and speaking endeavors at www.gaylemirwin.com.