SIDNEY — Recently I took a Christmas card picture of my kids with the Big Four Bridge in the background. This bridge has always reminded me of my home – Sidney, Ohio. I grew up on the south side of town. Most of my childhood was spent at 885 Crescent Drive, the Big Four Bridge visible from my bedroom window. For years, coming home meant passing under that bridge to get to our house. After high school, I moved away from Sidney for a while, but eventually returned to start a family and a career in this town. There is something about the bridge that allows my childhood and my adult life to merge.
There is something about Christmas that allows our past and present to merge. We take comfort in celebrating traditions that make us feel closer to those we have lost. I still wear my Grandma Weigandt’s apron and make pickled eggs when my family gathers on Christmas Eve. I try to make Grandma Schlater’s red velvet cake, we use her embroidered tablecloth, and my daughter will play “The First Noel” on Grandma’s piano. After mass, we will spend Christmas Eve playing euchre and enjoying the anticipation of little cousins as they wait for Santa. This is much the same way that I spent Christmas as a small child. While all of my grandparents have passed away, so much of them remains here still. The anchor of my family helped merge my past and present. It was the lure of my grandparents and parents who drew me home years ago. My husband and I wanted to raise our children in a place where they could be shaped by sharing time with family.
In recent days my guess is that many of us have experienced the past and present coming together as loved ones return home. As a teacher, this time of year always brings former graduates back to the high school to visit. They return to share their successes and always tell me how small everything seems in the halls they once commanded. I listen to them and my heart fills as I hear their happiness and they begin to understand the first feelings of returning home. Chances are a trip to the grocery this time of year will likely include a reunion too. Whether we live here or are home for a visit, in a town this size we are bound to bump into childhood friends who are home for Christmas. These reunions are typically grateful exchanges as we get to share a moment with someone from our past. These reunions are also unique to small towns like ours. Unplanned moments where we get to experience both the past and present as we open up our homes, our churches, and our hearts to those who have travelled to spend Christmas here.
My oldest daughter will leave Sidney in the fall and move to a college campus. Next year at this time, she will be returning home for a visit. My hope is that when that happens she too will discover the merging of her past and present. She will begin to recognize the solid foundation that a small town childhood has provided her and it will give her confidence to strike out and make her own way in the world. She will see that this is a place where people look out for one another, where we cheer for each other’s successes- a place where we lift each other up. I hope she will take a little of that out into the world with her. I know there are a lot of great places to live and that there are good people everywhere. For those of us who still call Sidney home, let us count that among our blessings this year. May we spend the new year working to make Sidney an even better place for all of us to call home. Merry Christmas.
The writer is a teacher, writer, and mother. She lives in Sidney with her husband Bryan and their children Grace, Genevieve, and CJ Olding.