Slipping into the Past at Our Little House


This month has been one of reflection for me. Not just because I spent time with my good friends from childhood last weekend, but there was also Veteran’s Day. The anniversary of my brother’s death always puts me into the mode of looking back as do the holidays. On Thanksgiving, I made two of my mother’s traditional recipes and there’s nothing better to take you back than a traditional recipe.

Then there was news of Prince William’s engagement. As one of the newscasters said when the news broke, “There are those of us at a certain age that remember the engagement and wedding of Prince William’s parents, Charles and Diana.”

I was a 17-year-old junior in high school when Charles and Diana became engaged in the winter of 1981. My life was not unlike other teenagers at the time. I was going to school, working part time, participating in drill team, making time to spend with Dale and looking forward to my life after high school.

Kerri in high school

I lived in a big brick Tudor with my parents and maybe felt a little like a princess in that grand old house. But  we don’t have real royalty in the U.S., so we also looked forward to seeing the royal wedding live on television that summer.

It was the bells I remember waking me that hot end of July morning. My mother was sitting at the kitchen table watching the wedding and I just remember thinking, “How can the rest of the world be so happy when our world has just fallen apart?”

We had just buried my dad five days before, he died suddenly of a heart attack and for a long time, it was the one single event in my life that defined it. My own wedding plans for the summer after graduation were put on hold as my mother depended on survivor’s benefits I received as long as I remained single and in school. Every decision I made in the years following, from where I went to school to what I chose as a major was because I lost my father.

I’ve long since learned that death, tragedy and trauma are all a part of everyone’s life and that these experiences are all about learning and growing.

Hearing the news of Prince William’s engagement and seeing the footage of that wedding so long ago, took me back.

The impending time with my friends and remembering the other royal wedding also sparked the memory of Shelly’s grandfather, who was a good friend of my dad’s. When my father died, her grandfather was a pallbearer and was also the one who brought to our house the collection of money he had gathered from my father’s co-workers at the railroad, a custom to help the widow and bereaved family.

I shared this with Shelly during our girlfriend’s weekend. I think someone remembering the good person her grandfather was made her happy too. I also remembered the kindness shown to our family by others, classmates I hardly knew who came to bring flowers and cards, the very large turnout at the funeral home to honor a man who lived his life for his family and whose strong work ethic was respected by all who worked with him.

It’s those lessons that now dominate my memories of that time in my life, not the “what ifs” or “whys?”

The whole experience has taught me yet another lesson: It’s not always a bad thing to allow yourself to slip into the past, as long as it enhances your life, instead of miring you in regrets.

Is there a memory that takes you to a defining moment in your life?

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8 Responses

  1. I live just a few miles from where I grew up and so am surrounded by places and things that trigger memories of the past. It’s been a complicated mental process for me to learn to set aside the sad memories and regrets and celebrate all the happy moments that have happened in these places.

  2. 9-11 still sticks out in my mind. I remember how close it brought us together. Now we seem to have forgotten the devastation and blame TSA for doing their job and trying to keep us safe. I’d rather have a pat down search than a plane crash due to terrorist activities.

    • Kerri says:

      Oh, definitely 9-11, Heather. I remember my mother calling me to tell me the news, I was up at the barn feeding the horses and I raced home to watch television. We had just come back the day before from the last vacation we all took together. The thing that really takes me back to that time, though, is the country song, “I hope you Dance.” I always took Mom to the grocery store on Wednesdays and on 9-12, we were walking around the store like zombies, trying to go on as if the world were still sane, and that song played on the Muzak. By then, we had seen the images of lives lost – wedding invitations in the rubble that were never sent, photos, letters and other personal objects of workers in the towers. It was such a poignant song, a hope that we all live our lives to the fullest before its too late.

  3. Kristi says:

    We live in a small rural town and it is such a wonderful place. The community and church and co-workers are so wonderful. You are overwhelmed with cards and flowers and food when anyone passes. One of my co-workers recently lost a Granddaughter who was only 7 weeks old and her young parents did not have money for a funeral. We took a collection at work at folks were so generous.

    It is interesting when life milestones intersect with world milestones and how that takes us right back to that moment.

    • Kerri says:

      Your writing reminded me of the memorial held here for a member of our community at the VFD. The whole mountain turned out with food and remembrances for the widow and his family who had come in from Florida.

  4. Alexandra says:

    The first moonwalk. I got married to my ex-husband that weekend and remember seeing images on the television.

    I was very moved by your post. I think our world is losing these important gestures, like collecting $ for a widow, because we are forgetting to nurture community. I know that when my dad passed away at 97, a normal time to leave and a natural passing, I could not get over the outpouring of sympathy in the form of cards that my mom and I received from members of the community, even people we did not know …Now most people live in big cities or suburbs, and I do not think this type of thing happens there anymore to the same extent.

    • Kerri says:

      I think you are right, Alexandra. These gestures are rarely done in larger communities. At the time Dale and I grew up in our blue collar railroad community, it was still a very close-knit place, and the extended family of workers took care of their own and each other’s families.