Monday, September 12, 2011


Add to Google Reader or HomepageThis has been a summer to visit old friends. Starting with our nephew’s wedding in May, we have had the opportunity to see and spend time with family, former Peace Corps volunteers, my high school classmates and old friends.

In June, we went to the Boston area for a reunion of Peace Corps volunteers who had served in Chad. It is amazing that after 40 years, it was so easy to exchange ideas and news with fellow RPCVs. Many of the returned volunteers who were in Chad had served at times different from my years there, but the crucible called Peace Corps Chad created similar life experiences and memories. We had the good fortune of staying with a former Chad volunteer and her husband, so the whole weekend was filled with stories and news and a shared perspective on the world and world politics.

We drove to Pennsylvania to attend a class 65th birthday party. We got to see my classmates – some of whom had had the good fortune (misfortune?) of having me in their class for all 12 years of education in Sharpsville. It was fun to exchange stories and reminiscences and, as at the Peace Corps reunion, the only problem was that there was not enough time to talk with everyone or as long as desired. At one point, I thought: “My, are these folks old!” – and then I looked in a mirror and realized that I fit in perfectly. Returning to one’s birthplace can evoke a variety of feelings. Mostly, it felt odd. For instance, when we went shopping, I looked carefully at every person I saw expecting that I would recognize him or her (didn’t happen).

We stayed with Lynne and Harold; Lynne is one of my oldest friends (though she is five months younger than I am). Lynne grew up only one block away from my parents’ house.

Harold and Lynne at "Falling Water
I was able to walk around the old neighborhood and note the changes and similarities. As a test of memory, I tried to list the names of the neighbors to whom I had delivered newspapers when I was a teen. (The long-term memory works!) My parents’ house looks the same though the trees in the front yard – including the spruce that we used to jump over – are now mature/out of control. At the end of our street is a huge park that was created by the Buhl family. The “casino” is still there and recently renovated. (The casino was the place to go for summer dances when we were in high school. With a pond bordering two sides of the casino, it was such a romantic place to dance to “Sherry” by Frankie Valli, songs by the Shirelles and other sounds of the ‘60’s.) As teens, the Casino was also the place to warm up with a cup of hot chocolate in the winter after spending hours skating on the frozen pond. The walking trails are in good shape and the pool – the place where I spent most of my summer days – is still operating and very popular. Lynne and I shared memories of favorite and not-so-favorite teachers and how they had an impact on who we became. We had fun remembering teachers and their foibles. Lynne’s recollections were more academic/more substantive than mine though she was sure that the school had not provided a career advisor to female students. (The student advisor for the boys was the football coach. The student advisor for girls was the girls’ basketball coach.)

I got to talk with a woman from my high school class who also writes a blog, It is called: “Yo Jo What’s for Dinner?” at Jo’s blog is about menus and great recipes she learned while in Italy. (I wonder if Miss Sarcinella ever thought that some of her journalism students would become writers.)

We spent Labor Day weekend with my sisters in Philadelphia. Great conversations, reminiscences, wonderful food, French wine (mostly) – it doesn’t get much better than that.

People always want to know: 1) why we chose to go to France and 2) what are the most striking differences between the two places. The answers to both questions are the people. We have wonderful friends here – many of whom have been friends for our lifetimes. We have made wonderful friends in France – many of whom seem to have been our friends for our lifetimes. As here, the inhabitants are the embodiment of the customs and language which ARE different. The best part is that we find that kindness and the joy of humanity are universal.