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Small Town, Big Memories

August 21, 2014

The streets were lined with skillfully restored classic cars in every hue, size and shape as raised hoods flaunted the horse power of perfectly chromed or painted engines. Although red seemed to be the new black this year, enough can’t be said about the amplified sex appeal a true midnight black adds to a car’s appeal.

As nostalgic automobiles numbering in the hundreds overflowed onto side streets and parking lots, onlookers numbered in the thousands. Their bodies carefully polished, cars glistened in the afternoon sun as admirers strolled by. There was even a car body craved from wood and it was amazing. While some folks simply enjoyed a warm afternoon amongst the Classics, others reminisced about days gone by.

My friend Rick has his collection of memories too as he pointed to different cars (many owned by family or friends) and shared stories. But the auto that really revved his motor was a ’57 Dodge. “My mom’s first car was just like this one!” he announced leaning in the window to see if it had buttons on the dashboard to shift gears, which it did. Then he explained it is very rare car today. Dickens, I just wish cars nowadays still had a separate bar on the steering wheel for the horn. It’s hard to honk vinyl.

1959 Chevrolet Impala

However, the car show paled in comparison to every ‘old friend’ we met. As I drooled over a meticulously maintained ’59 Chevy Impala with bat-wings and cat eyes (my fave) suddenly someone said, “Hey, how ya been?” Not to me; many of Rick’s childhood friends seemed to be cruising the “Crusin’ & Car Show” last Sunday afternoon, which kicked off the 125th Soldiers Reunion in Newton, NC, believed to be the longest running patriotic celebration not linked with a holiday and a local tradition utterly woven into the fabric of people’s lives. Even some folks who’ve moved away return each year to enjoy the festivities.

You know, I’m not from “these here parts.” My bond, however, with this week’s commemoration is my childhood as a military brat, to drop a phrase I’m not fond of particularly. Being born into a military family usually means ‘roots’ are not included. It’s more like life as a potted plant, instead of a tree. Your life is portable, living here for three years, then there for three years. Complete opposite lifestyle from small town folk who grew up carrying childhood friendships into adulthood; unfamiliar territory in my life experience.

Yet as elusive as lifelong friends have been, I’m grateful to be included in a conversation with those who after years or decades apart meet again. It’s as if the expanse of time suddenly dissolves. Sunday, for instance, I felt an overwhelming sense of nostalgia fill the air as Rick would say, “Hey, remember when…?” While one friend after another would laugh, then pause and add, “Yeah but, remember the time…?” After the laughter faded time righted itself back to the present moment as everyone revealed their latest goings on in a flurry who is doing what, where and when. Appreciating how separate yet intertwined their lives are and had been since grade school, just for a moment I longed for even a sprinkling of lifelong friendships and share collective memories. Although, living a variety of places and seeing many things, I am grateful.

Even though Newton is still a small town, obviously it was much smaller back in the day. Four lane roads today started out as one lane dirt roads that folks still remember. After spending hours meeting so many wonderful people whose roots are firmly planted alongside these roads I quickly grasped how someone could live in the same place their entire life. Growing up all over the map, I had never understood it. I thought they were the ones missing out on life because their world seemed so confined.

Yet, after all the reminiscing I had the pleasure to partake of on that warm Sunday afternoon, I realize now that life isn’t about where or how you live. Life is about making memories. The kind you toss around during a conversation with an old friend; because even a small town can have the big memories.

Can you imagine…a car completely made of wood?

Smile and make memories.




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