My mom grew up in Olney, Illinois -- a town where several members of my extended family have lived throughout my life and a town I visited often a kid. Her older sister, who has lived in Tennessee for as long as I can remember, was back in the area this week and rented a house on a private lake outside of Olney.
Cousins came. Aunts and uncles and friends came.
It quickly evolved into exactly what I think my aunt had hoped for -- a days-long family reunion.
. . .
After spending the night at my dad's, we headed to Olney with a few stops to make before joining the family gathering. Gotta do some junk shopping, right?
First was Pool's -- the local store where I remember buying Indiana Jones toys as a kid. It has since turned into an overpriced thrift store which I left empty-handed.
No worries. The Garage Sale was next.
I was sure to find something there.
. . .
Just up the road was the Garage Sale -- a second-hand store I'd visited countless times as a kid which happened to be located just down the block from the house my grandmother lived in. As many times as I was as in and out of that place, the only thing I actually remember buying there was a Full Force tape and a coffee mug shaped like a toilet.
I knew I'd find something good there -- a thrift store with tons of merchandise selling at garage sale price. Hence the name, I suppose.
Rolling up to the corner of West Chestnut, my eager eyes were met with disappointment.
The Garage Sale -- closed, empty, and currently a space for rent.
. . .
On Chestnut, I shifted my view to the other side of the street and snapped a shot of the house my grandmother once lived in. Not only did my mother spend much of her childhood in this house, many years worth of my own memories come from weekend visits and holidays spent here at 609.
Although a little bit has changed, it's still the same. Just like when Grammie and my Aunt Sylvia stood on the same porch in 1984.
Also in 1984, here's me, my brother, and two of our cousins being extra awesome on the steps.
. . .
Time for lunch.
Hovey's Diner -- an "Olney tradition since 1960" and ranked among the best mom and pop restaurants in Illinois.
My grandmother died in 2003. The last time I ate at Hovey's, she and I sat at the two-seat table by the window.
As expected, my burger was amazing, Amy's salad looked as good as a salad can look, and the kids were none too disappointed with their Mickey Mouse pancakes (complete with bacon and sausage faces).
On a side note, I can't help but think Hovey's could cash in huge on a deal with Jay-Z. It would require nothing but a slight name change.
Hova's Diner, anyone?
. . .
I kept snapping pictures after lunch as we continued down the street through an area my brother and I walked countless times when we were kids. For example, here's the park where a bird pooped on my copy of Iceman #1.
I told that story here of FASTE back in 2013 with a post called "The Crappiest Comic I Owned."
And here's Double R Book Nook -- the used bookstore where I spent an incalculable amount of allowance money on comic books and Mad Magazines.
The Book Nook closed years ago, but I was thrilled to find that the store name could still be found on the windows.
Next stop: family.
. . .
I can't begin to describe how amazing the rest of the day was -- seeing family members I had not seen in far too long.
Really. Just amazing.
Cousins, aunts, uncles, siblings, kids.
Some I'd not seen in years. Literally years. At least ten if not more.
We ate. We drank. We fished.
But best of all, we remembered.
We laughed and recalled the times when we were our kids -- the younger generation running freely and playing together without a care in the world.
Referring back to Max Ehrmann's Desiderata for the second time in a week, we have all gracefully surrendered the things of youth and (somewhat reluctantly) become the grown-ups.
I can't say that this reunion wasn't hard at times -- hard because I wish Mom could have been there.
But I know she was.
. . .
Mason and my cousin's son hit it off immediately. Instant buddies.
I credit her husband for the best photo taken on Monday.
Unscripted and authentic evidence of a love shared by one generation, passed on and shared by the next.
Here's to you, family.