I’ve been visiting my family — my mother and three sisters and one brother — all of whom live close to our childhood home of 304 E. Newport Road, Lititz, PA.

This morning I took a walk along the linear park that runs through the meadow and along the creek of the land that was once the Snyder farm for many generations and then became the Hershey farm when my grandfather bought it from my Great-grandmother Snyder.

the meadow of the old farmstead

Later, my father bought the farm from his father. Eleven years after my father’s death my mother sold the farm to a developer. Houses sprang up where corn and alfalfa fields used to grow.

Fortunately, my mother, the developer, and Warwick Township came to an agreement that all feel good about today. In addition to houses, the land supports a walking/biking trail that leads through the old meadow, past a wetland region, and around a playground and several ball fields.

To Protect land is to protect memories

This morning’s walk allowed me to remember the way I would walk the same path along the woods through the meadow, bare feet carefully avoiding new cow piles, back in the early 1960’s. I was calling the cows to come to the barn for milking. My father taught me his chant. Every farmer has his own.

“Here, Hummy, Hummy, Hummy, Hummy, Hummy.”

The call is almost sung, and the note on the last syllable of Humm-y goes up.

Woods, Streams, and Meadow Sounds

It’s August, so the cicadas are raising their voices to the heavens, alternating as one tree gets loud and another subsides. The traffic on Newport Road is heavy now, so the world does intrude aurally on the walk.But the speeding cars are sometimes slowed by the clip-clop of horseshoes on asphalt as the Amish neighbors go by in their horse and buggy.

And oh those smells!

Lititz is known as a pretzel town and a chocolate town. When the wind is right, the chocolate smell travels all the way to the former farm. It might mingle with manure smells and honeysuckle, ozone before rain, and humus in the soil. Lititz is an earthy, sweet place.

With these sounds and smells enlarging the lovely landscape in front of me, I  strolled along the meadow path. The sun was low in the east, fresh from sunrise an hour or so earlier, and therefore great for casting long shadows. I looked at the long, tall Shirley shadow crossing the path and took a picture. The wave was a gesture intended to call forth the child who loved the same land so many years ago. The child is sometimes bashful and often hidden from my view. Parker Palmer says the soul is like a wild animal.

I think I’ll call her now.

“Here, Hummy, Hummy, Hummy, Hummy, Humm-EEE.”


When is the last time you visited your childhood home? Is it still there? What sights, sounds, and smells do you remember from it?

waving hello to my childhood self



Posted in

Shirley Showalter


  1. Tina Barbour on August 9, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    What a lovely post! I love the images you use to evoke the sights and smells of your childhood home.

    Both of my childhood homes are still standing, though it has been many years since I’ve been inside them. At my first home, where I lived until I was 10, I remember the sounds of the leaves “whispering” in the breeze in the tall oak trees in the front yard, and the rain on the red tin roof. I remember the scent of the mint that grew around one of the out buildings. At my second home, on the farm that my parents owned until I was 26, I remember the long driveway that I rode my bike on. I remember the curve of the newly plowed fields in front of the house. I remember when it was quiet enough to hear the insects on a summer’s afternoon.

    • shirleyhs on August 12, 2012 at 8:42 am

      Tina, I share so many of these memories. Thanks for expanding the sensory palette! I especially remember the whispering of the oak trees next to my bedroom window in those pre-air conditioning days. I was able to show a friend the very space I slept because the house is now a B and B and the owners are so kind to us former inhabitants. Hope these memories help you with your own memoir!

  2. Kathleen Friesen on August 9, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    Your walking picture of the farm is a treasure trove. It brings the feeling of late summer evenings, playing in the humid air with friends, telling stories on the neighbor’s screened porch after sunset, signaling fireflies in tangible darkness. It brings a wistful sadness for friends of those growing up years, both old and young, no longer present in this life.

    Your imaginative photograph of your shadow prompts a near-at-hand memory from recent reading, “‘How is your shadow?’ (is) a customary greeting between friends in Japan, a recognition that what we reject is as important as what we embrace.” (-Williams Terry Tempest, from “When Women were Birds”)

    • shirleyhs on August 12, 2012 at 8:47 am

      Oh Kathleen, what a delightful connection with the shadow. So different (or is it?) from the Jungian concept of the shadow or egoistic self. Another reminder to add Terry Tempest Williams to my reading list. Have you listened to Krista Tippett interviewing her On Being? Great show. My friend Lanie also reviewed the book you reference here on Richard Gilbert’s blog: http://richardgilbert.me/2012/06/30/the-silent-voice/

      Love your memory list also!

  3. Joan on August 9, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    Love this post, Shirley. I visited my many childhood homes about 3 years ago and I’m headed back in November to scatter my mother’s ashes in all of her favorite haunts on Long Island where I grew up. My childhood self and I love returning to those places. It brings us warm, happy memories.

    • shirleyhs on August 12, 2012 at 8:50 am

      So glad that you can revisit your childhood home. I can envision you in November spreading ashes on Long Island. That’s the month I anticipate the birth of a new grand-daughter in a Manhattan hospital. And so life continues. Blessings on your journey and the memories it will evoke of your home and your mother.

  4. Sonia Marsh/Gutsy Living on August 11, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    Summers in Denmark were special. Making raspberry jam on a toy cooking stove with my best friend, Lilian. Selling flowers on the street corner that we had plucked from my mom’s garden. Oh the memories.

  5. shirleyhs on August 12, 2012 at 8:53 am

    I can see little Sonia doing those things. And now she’s an author about to launch her first book. Memoir is a little like selling flowers from our mother’s gardens, isn’t it? We help other people experience life that was ours and our family’s but now is offered to others for their own beauty and edification.

  6. Janet Oberholtzer on August 13, 2012 at 9:58 am

    It must be the standard call for all PA dutch farmers… I too spent early mornings in the meadow saying, “Here, Hummy, Hummy, Hummy, Hummy, Hummy.”

    And I like your words and picture of calling the child Shirley out… I’ve done similar things and always find it to be a good reflection time and a growing time of self-awareness.

  7. shirleyhs on August 13, 2012 at 11:30 am

    Have any idea where the word “hummy” comes from? I’m a little afraid to ask. 🙂

    You have your childhood farm near at hand. How fortunate. Hope the child Janet visits you often as you continue to speak and write. Because You Can.

    • Janet Oberholtzer on August 13, 2012 at 11:42 am

      I think hummy is a PA Dutch word… it’s not the word for cow, that’s more like “kieh” but it’s the word for calf.

      • shirleyhs on August 13, 2012 at 2:32 pm

        Thanks, Janet!

  8. Richard Gilbert on August 13, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    What joy to visit such a place and such memories and to catch glimpses of yourself. The child remains inside!

    My childhood home, 339 Norwood Avenue, Satellite Beach, Florida, is looking old and neglected. So is my whole street, sunblasted and faded. Such a shock every time I drive through when I visit.

  9. John Yoder on August 20, 2012 at 7:27 am

    Several years ago on a trip through Ohio, I took a friend to see my childhood home and discovered it was gone. Just like that, there was a new building and parking lot in that space. I’m glad I have a few pictures of it. The entire street is commercial buildings and a mall — about as ugly a street as you will ever see. That’s progress.

    • shirleyhs on August 20, 2012 at 8:10 am

      What a disappointment that must have been, John. So sorry that there’s such an ugly absence in a place which still carries memories for you. Maybe you can locate some other favorite place that remains. Your childhood shadow has probably already found it!

      • John Yoder on August 20, 2012 at 9:33 am

        Not to worry. The ball field in the park is still there!

  10. Lucie Weaver Martin on August 27, 2012 at 10:06 am

    Shirley, I meandered to your blog via your posting of my sister and brother-in-law’s farm (Herrbrook Farm), and felt compelled to respond to your post. The buildings of my childhood farm still stand along the Rittenhouse creek in Montgomery County, Pa., but the barn is now a preschool (sheltering young ones of a different specie,now) and the house is an office. The field across the road is scraped down to a much lower level and is now a shopping centre. The remainder of the fields are a development. What remains of the landscape I knew? Not much–the little Rittenhouse creek bordered by a struggling woodland finding its way to the Perkiomen and then to the Schuykill River. When I studied landscape design I was introduced to the word palimpsest as it pertains to the landscape. Who is “writing” on the landscape now and how names provide clues to the past as a reminder of our brief sojourn in time and space. The Perkiomen a nod to the native Americans who preceded the Dutch (Schuykill) and the German (Rittenhouse) immigrants who settled the area. When I view the farm now though, I can remember the creek and the woods and the hours spent in play there, the dusty warmth and smell of the haymow and watching thunderstorms from the large porch with my parents and siblings.
    Also, I am glad that your mother had the foresight to plan for a linear park–these greenways are so important to communities.

  11. shirleyhs on August 27, 2012 at 10:57 am

    Lucie, thank you for this heart-felt post. I can feel your shadow too and its sadness for changes in the landscape. I’m glad you found me after I found your sister and brother-in-law’s beautiful website. In fact, just in case some reader wanders into this space looking for a way to preserve a family-farm tradition as an artist’s paradise, I will share the link to the place that first connected us.http://www.herrbrook.com/

    And please come back for more visits. You will understand well much of what is on my own heart these days.

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