By Bruce Stambaugh
Last year at this time we were still settling into new surroundings, situations, and holiday opportunities as our relocation process to Virginia’s magical Shenandoah Valley continued. We had moved there to be close to our grandchildren. Celebrating the joyous season with them was paramount.
But this year was different. With Thanksgiving as early as it could be, we found an opening in our busy retirement schedules to return to our Ohio homeland.
An early winter snowstorm surprised us as we traversed roads in the higher elevations of West Virginia and Maryland. That couldn’t deter us, however. We arrived safely in the Buckeye State to celebrate personally with a few family members and friends, people we love and cherish. Some gatherings were planned while others were serendipitous.
The frivolity began before we could even unpack our suitcases. That’s the kind of company we keep, and that is willing to host us. Our first evening meal and lively conversation with lots of laughter set the tone for our all too brief visit. We had so much fun we could have turned around and gone straight back to Virginia and been pleased with the trip. Of course, we didn’t.
The next morning we met old friends at a busy locally-owned bistro for breakfast. We discovered other friends there, too. We stayed so long it would have been more profitable if the proprietor had charged us per hour rather than per meal.
As we left for old haunts near Holmes County’s Mt. Hope, the van mysteriously pulled into the parking lot of a favorite chocolate shop. Affabile store owner Jason must sweeten his candy with his hospitality.
We made a beeline to the furniture store where I served as its chief marketer for 11 years in Mt. Hope to say hello to former fellow staff members. Fond hellos, fun memories, and new looks for the store inside and out greeted us. Their ability to create the latest styles in beautiful furniture boggles my mind.
After that enlightening encounter, we took a break at the charming Red Mug Coffee shop, an apt name if there ever was one. Of course, I drank my delicious brew from a red mug.
We hadn’t even ordered when a former student entered. Lonnie and our family go way back. He was born two hours before our daughter. Their cribs were side by side in the nursery at the hospital in Millersburg.
Then a high school friend of our son spied us and years of catching up ensued. Marlin proudly shared photos of his adopted children. Those kids couldn’t be in a more loving situation.
Laundry on the washline told us that Martha was home. After warm, welcoming hugs, we visited with her and her youngest child until we just had to leave. Our timing couldn’t have been better. I stopped to visit briefly with my friend Dan, who mows the roadsides in the township where I served as a trustee for 20 years.
We found our former across-the-road neighbors Paul and Mary as gracious and hospitable as ever. The time ticked away here much too quickly as well.
The visiting continued at Killbuck with the doctor who brought our daughter and son into this world. As always, his spry wife considered us family. We checked in with a couple of their children and spouses, too. Of course, “children” is a relative term since they all are grandparents.
The pace of our last day in Ohio was just the opposite. Neva went shopping with her sister, and sure enough, met even more friends. I ran some necessary errands before going birding. I was thankful for the exercise, the wildlife I encountered, and many photo opportunities. The sun finally burned through the haze by late afternoon. Still, the air’s temperature couldn’t come close to matching the warmth of fellowship we had experienced.
Holidays are for gathering, reminiscing, sharing. Through both our planned and spontaneous encounters, it was indeed a joy to be home for the holidays.
Click the photo to enlarge it.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2018