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Going home

About six years ago, I did what Thomas Wolfe said you can’t do:  I went home again.  Home, by the way, is a small town just over the “Blue Line” into the Adirondack Park, a pretty place nestled by the confluence of the Mighty Hudson and Great Sacandaga rivers.  Tourists love it here and, after many decades away, it turns out that I still do too.

 One of the things I returned to was the small, white, clapboard Catholic church I was raised in.  When I was young it was called Holy Infancy, but in 2009 it, like many other parishes, merged with its neighbor, in this case, Immaculate Conception, and became Holy Mother and Child Parish.  The name is a good compromise and most times I remember to call it that, although every now and again I slip.  No matter, everyone knows what I mean.

It still smells of wood and incense and Murphy’s Oil Soap; the Rosary Altar Society used to clean the church every Saturday morning and those fragrances were a comfort to me even then.  As the youngest member of the group (my mother always brought me along “to help”), I was the 5-year-old who exchanged the burned out votive “stubs” for new candles.  All the while I worked, the statue of Mary that watched over that side of the church kept me company.  It was all of a piece — my mother, the Blessed Mother, the candles and the quiet.  All in all, not a bad way to spend part of Saturday morning.

The votive candles are gone now, and so are those wonderful ladies who were the “grown-ups” in my young life.  Actually, that’s not entirely true; one of the biggest surprises awaiting me when I walked back into the vestibule of that church was the inescapable fact that, while I was gone, I, too, had somehow morphed into a grown-up.  I was no longer 5 years old, and there was an unmistakable sense that those ladies had been waiting for this moment for a long time.  You are home, they seemed to say, and there is work to be done.

So I would like to counter Thomas Wolfe with another writer.  “You can never go home again,” said Maya Angelou, “But the truth is you can never leave home, so it’s all right.”  Spot on, Ms. Angelou.  It is good to be back.

Article written by Kay Winchester, Vermont Catholic staff writer.
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