Lately, I’ve been reflecting on all of the things I’ve taken for granted through the years. Things you think will always be there, and then, horror of horrors, one day they just aren’t there anymore!
Last year when Hostess shut down (nah- it’ll never happen- then it did!) I had to run out and buy a Ding Dong. What if I could never get one again?! Funny thing was, as I was eating it, the last ever Hostess Ding Dong, I realized, I probably hadn’t had one in 15 years! I didn’t know I would miss them, but there was just something about knowing it wouldn’t be available anymore that made me HAVE to have one! Luckily, some of the Hostess brand items are being manufactured again, and Ding Dongs happen to be among them. I bought a box this time and just downed the last one. I probably won’t think about them again until the next time their life is threatened.
Last week, I drove through Youngstown, Ohio and stopped in at what I thought was Jay’s Hot Dogs on McCartney Rd. They bought out the chocolate malt recipe from the old Strouss Department store. When that store closed up and I knew I’d never be able to get another chocolate malt, a regular stop through my childhood and young adult years, it was very depressing. When I learned that Jay’s would be offering them, it became a favorite stop. Horror of horrors- last week I discovered Jay’s is no more and whatever is there now didn’t get to buy their recipe. There’s nothing like a Strouss Department store chocolate malt. The closest thing to it is a Wendy’s Frosty, but it doesn’t quite compare.
Driving through Youngstown, and all the roads I used to drive on, made me realize all of the things that are no longer there, Poulakos Bakery (no one made a French Crueller like they did, or a cream stick), the old roller rink, my uncle and father’s gas station, Hills Department store, etc. Landmarks are just gone and I no longer recognize the streets that were so familiar to me for more than 40 years. I guess you truly “can’t go home again” since “home” never looks the same after being gone for too long.
So today I stop in at the Trader Horn, a local hardware store, and am shocked to find a notice on the door announcing their upcoming closing. I was just there last week buying caulking for the bathtub. Wonder where I will be able to go now for these necessities.
As I reflect on all of these things that I am missing, I realize that this melancholy over losing familiar places has more to do with the memories of shared experiences with people and the connections that I made than the actual, physical building or business. When I think of the Poulakos Bakery donuts, I have an instant memory of “daddy” bringing home a box of donuts and all of us running, trying to grab our favorite from the box before another sibling got it. The Strouss malts conjure up a memory of being a little girl and having “mommy” choose me to go downtown with her over the others. There’s a “story” behind every place and thing.
So today, while responding to a post on a yahoo group about our favorite, “must-stops” while traveling Route 66, I realized that my favorite places along the Mother Road also have to do more with the people that I associate with the places than the actual place itself. The connections I’ve made with people, what they’ve taught me or how they have encouraged me are indelible memories etched into my heart, where they will remain long after I stop traveling. In the meantime, I won’t take it for granted that things will remain the same. I’ll just be sure to enjoy the ride while it lasts.
What places did YOU take for granted that aren’t there anymore? What places could you still pop in on and let the owner know what it means to you, while it’s still there? In this day of small businesses struggling to stay alive, I’d like to encourage you to pop in on one this week, meet the owner, and spend a few dollars- it might just keep that business going a little while longer!