“You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood … back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time—back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.”

 

–Thomas Wolfe

The Home Place on the Newport Road

The Home Place on the Newport Road, ca. 1965. Photo by Henry Hershey

Thomas Wolfe lied.

For the last three weeks I have been proving him wrong.

You can go home again.

I am in the process of doing exactly that. In fact, one of the first things I did

when I moved back to Lititz, PA, was to join a bike tour

which featured the “Jacob Huber’s Tavern,” the house where I grew up

and which is historically significant in the history of Lititz.

I was asked to give recollections of growing up in this historic house, something I wrote about in Blush.

It was an honor to pay tribute to the many people who have loved this house.

As former owner Dale Groff said on the bike tour,

“None of us who lived here has owned this place. It is a house for the ages.”

The house, built in the 1730s, was in the Snyder and Hershey families for six generations

and is now again in the (Hershey)Weaver family

since being purchased by my cousin Bob Weaver.

The stonework was restored by Jay and Kathy Wenger, who bought

the house from the Groffs. The house has been an inn for more than 20 years,

as it was in colonial times.

I can rent my teenage bedroom, and have, several times, going home again to “Time and Memory.”

L-R Sisters Doris and Sue, me, Suzanne Groff, Dale Groff

L-R Sisters Doris Dagen and Sue Bollinger, me, Suzanne Groff, Dale Groff

Jacob Huber’s tavern was a stop Moravian missionary Count Zinzendorf made on his trip through the colonies.

Because Zinzendorf’s preaching stirred the heart of the nearby farmer George Klein,

he became a Moravian and donated his 491 acre farm, which became the town of Lititz.

Now that our new home is located in the heart of Lititz,

I can return to favorite haunts, such as the school I loved, less than a mile away.

Warwick High School, signs and logo

Warwick High School, signs and logo just as I remember them.

Close to the high school, children are dangling their feet in water

at Lititz Springs Park, just like I did almost seventy years ago.

 

The spring water flows about a quarter mile to a fountain that borders Broad St.

The spring water flows about a quarter mile to a fountain that borders Broad St.

The fountain was not here when I was a child.

The fountain was not here when I was a child. But the train station on the left and the building across the street were much the same.

The pavillions, the benches, and the trees all seem just like they did 70 years ago.

The pavilions, the benches, and the trees all seem just like they did 70 years ago. 

When I walk in the park,

I feel like singing the John Prine song “Hello in There.”

The line that reverberates:

“Old trees just grow stronger.”

I am an old tree now, and so are most of my readers.

Some of us will be fortunate enough to grow even older in the company of friends and family.

Like my dear mother.

Still relishing family, farm, and food at age 94.

Still relishing family, farm, faith, and food at age 94.

No matter how long we live and how much health we are blessed with along the way, we are all mortal.

Thomas Wolfe was right when he says there is no place to go to find the “old forms” that once seemed everlasting.

I’m not looking for those.

But why does he call Time and Memory an escape too? They fascinate me.

Here’s what I hope:

You can go home again. Not to discover clear plastic covers over all the past.

Not to relive memories smudged with tangles and plaques. Not to discover a universal system. Not to escape the suffering all lives are heir to.

Instead, I am going home because it was my first home beyond the mysterious realm from which I came.

My name is a place name. It means “from the bright meadow.”

The meadow was a magical place in my childhood. I can walk to the very place now.

And take my grandchildren with me.

The weeping willows fell over in a storm, but new shoots grew out of them.

I am going home in the spirit of the “Wayfaring Stranger.”

I’m going home to meet my mother. And my brother and my sisters. And my cousins. And my nephews and nieces.

And my daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter.

I am going home prepared to experience awe —

not because the past is static but because it changes in such amazing, unfathomable patterns.

When we sit on the porch in the early morning, this is what we see —

Red Fox Lane, our neighbors in this welcoming community.

The early morning view from our porch.

The early morning view from our porch.

 

In 1966, the last year I lived in Lititz 55 years ago, this land was a tree nursery.

Centuries before that, it was George Klein’s farm.

I’ve already had my view of the past rearranged by reading local history since I arrived.

Because I grew up in a house with an historical plaque on the front porch,

I somehow got the idea that

George Klein gave his farm to Lititz because Count Zinzendorf was such a powerful preacher,

and Klein gave his farm out of pure love for the Moravian community.

Here’s what the local historians say:

“When Klein and his wife arrived here in 1740, it was the last tract still for sale.

It was a jungle of scrub oak and bramble with many outcroppings of limestone and a huge swamp.

The only tillable land was in the east end. Klein hoped to make the farm pay by grazing cattle in the large meadows and also by extensive fruit growing.”

Klein didn’t give the farm outright. He exchanged it for lifetime income. Not a bad deal.

And not a bad deal for the town, either.

After many transformations, it now has both a deep historical past

and a new appeal, not only to elders, but to the young, and to artists.

More about that anon.

Even as I have made the journey home, so has this town, cycling in and out of its past,

casting off some of the old but keeping what matters most.

This is my Grover’s Corners, and I’m glad I’m here.

I’m here to learn the lesson imparted by Emily in Our Town.

“Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?”

In the moments I could answer “yes” to this question, I knew I was home.

There have been quite a few of those in the last three weeks.

* * *

Now, I hope you will share stories about going home. Are you a stay-at-homer, a come-back-homer, a cycler-in-and-outer?

What name would you give to your relationship to home? Also, have I convinced you that Thomas Wolfe was wrong? What has changed about your home? For good or ill?

 

P. S. One of the other bike tour members, Gale Hess, took a video of the entire

visit to Jacob Huber’s Tavern. To preserve the important history it contains,

I add it here. Thank you, Gale!

Shirley Showalter

35 Comments

  1. Marlena Fiol on June 12, 2021 at 12:42 pm

    “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
    —T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets

    • Shirley Showalter on June 12, 2021 at 1:11 pm

      Yes, Marlena! I have thought of that quote often. The first time I read it, bells went off in my heart, and it keeps on explaining life in a beautiful way. Notice that “we” are the ones who move, explore, and change. The “secret sits in the middle and knows” (Robert Frost).

      • Tina Barbour on June 12, 2021 at 9:01 pm

        This is an interesting question for me. I grew up in rural Virginia. I left for a while, first to another part of Virginia, them to Ohio. Though I came back to Virginia after 5 years away, I don’t feel like I ever returned home. My parents had sold the farm, and I was too different to ever want to go back to the kind of world I grew up in. My husband spent his career slowly getting closer to his home, where we live now. But we had two very different upbringings. In a sense, he was able to go home again, while I never wanted to.

        • Tina Barbour on June 12, 2021 at 9:03 pm

          Sorry I “replied in the wrong spot! 🙂

          • Shirley Showalter on June 13, 2021 at 8:13 am

            No problem, Tina! You bring up an interesting source of discussion and/or tension in the lives of couples: if we choose to live close to one family of origin, how can the other person in the relationship feel just as much at home? Sounds like you have solved that problem by each getting the relationship to home that you wanted. In our case, we spent ten years close to Stuart’s family, which also happened to be close to the university where we met, and we both enjoyed exploring new relationships and permanent ones. Now we have flipped, and we both have many friends living in this area even though it’s my family. Our daughter’s move to Lancaster gave both of us family connections.



  2. Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder on June 12, 2021 at 1:28 pm

    Shirley, thanks for giving me thoughts to ponder about home and time and memory. How fortunate your family was to be settled and at peace for so many generations. That is not my story. My grandparents’ beautiful farm was confiscated by the Communists and the memories of the next generation were mostly about war and persecution and fleeing until they finally found their home again in Canada. Hardy and I have been back to Chortitza (my ancestral home) and to Poland (his ancestry). It was emotional and heartbreaking, but I’m so glad we went. Peace is a priceless gem we dare not lose.

    • Shirley Showalter on June 12, 2021 at 2:43 pm

      Elfrieda, your family history is an heroic one, and you have faced it squarely. Thank you for sharing your experience. I am so glad you were able to take the trip back to Russia and Poland. I love this statement: “Peace is a priceless gem we dare not lose.” I admit that I don’t know what it would be like to have one’s memories consumed by war, persecution, and flight. I pray that war might cease for this reason as well as many others.

  3. Melanie Springer Mock on June 12, 2021 at 2:02 pm

    This is so lovely, Shirley. I love the stories, the images, the history in this post, and I’m happy that you’ve come home again.

    • Shirley Showalter on June 12, 2021 at 2:44 pm

      Thanks for these words, Melanie. They mean a lot to me.

  4. Laurie Buchanan on June 12, 2021 at 2:58 pm

    Shirley — I’m so happy for you and Stuart! And yes, you’re proving Tom Wolfe wrong.

    I’ve always associated “home” with a person, as opposed to a location. “Home” was always where my mother was. And when she died, I became “home.” If you were to ask our grown son where “home” is, he’d say, “Where my mom is.”

    Interestingly, my sister, Julie, feels the same way. And now she’s “home” to her two grown children.

    • Shirley Showalter on June 13, 2021 at 8:22 am

      Laurie, I love this idea of home as person, not place. I will ponder it as an idea grandparents can consciously try to create and an idea rooted in nature.

      If I recall correctly, you also ran away from home at a young age??? If so, I am eager to read that memoir you intend to write. Sounds like you have the kernal of a paradox there, always an interesting idea for a writer to explore.

      • Laurie Buchanan on June 13, 2021 at 9:47 am

        Shirley — You have a good memory. Yes, I ran away when I was fifteen. When I write my memoir (I’ve started but haven’t finished), the title will be “Fourteen Christmases” — that’s how many holidays I celebrated with my family before I bolted. To be clear, I wasn’t running from my mom. Unfortunately, she suffered collateral damage from my choice.

  5. Dora Dueck on June 12, 2021 at 3:19 pm

    I love this meditation on home. And the photos reveal such a beautiful place. You’ve made me want to come and visit your patch of earth. And you’ve made me think about the questions you ask. Having moved, five years ago, to a place with no previous or long connection, I find it a challenge sometimes to feel “at home.” And yet, in other ways, I do, as if I’ve brought “home” along with me. But it’s hard to articulate what that means.

    • Shirley Showalter on June 13, 2021 at 8:31 am

      Dora, I always enjoy reading your take on things. Laurie, above, located home in her mother. But you are talking about home untethered to either person or place. I would love to read what you might write on that subject. You carry your home with you. Like a turtle? “This world is not my home, I’m just a passin’ through” came to my mind. You are talking about a spiritual grace, I think, and one I hope to have too.

  6. Marian Beaman on June 12, 2021 at 6:16 pm

    Your mother must be positively ecstatic that her chicks, young and older, are moving back to Lititz, a town I’m familiar with. Lititz Springs Park has been the site of Metzler reunions for decades and a few of my cousins have Lititz addresses, one living on Broad Street.

    I had two Lancaster County homes, neither of them historic, but both forming my history and informing memory. They held my heart until I married and moved to NE Florida, where my husband and I have enjoyed three generations of family. One sister has created a similar circle with part of her brood, just a few miles away.

    I’m not sure I’d call Thomas Wolfe a liar, though I do dispute his claim. Dying young in his late thirties, I’m guessing he and thus his characters lacked the perspective that a longer life imparts. You can perhaps go back to a different version of home, with the same landmarks, but a different perspective.

    Thanks for the reference to “Wayfaring Stranger, reminding me that we are all pilgrims going to a bright land one day. In the meantime, let’s soak in appreciation for the land of our fathers and mothers–and the love of family! 🙂

    • Shirley Showalter on June 13, 2021 at 8:37 am

      Well, Marian, you obviously need to come visit your cousin. It would be fun to explore the things that have changed and have remained the same with you. I’m glad you can enjoy three generations of connection in your “new” home of Florida.

      I hope you will grant me permission to engage in hyperbole. I overstated my case deliberately. But then he overstated his case deliberately too. 🙂

      Be sure to read Michael’s comment below. I think you will enjoy.

  7. Michael G. Cartwright on June 12, 2021 at 10:06 pm

    Wolfe’s modernism could have benefited from the poetic sensibilities of T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, which of course didn’t come until decades later. I was one of those readers who read Wolfe as a sophomore in college. Which of course is exactly when (Vonnegut said) LHA makes sense, but at no other time in life quite will. I continue to be fascinated by the spiraling arcs of Nabokov’s memoir Speak, Memory. No less modernist, of course, but much more settled than TW. As I make my way toward 64 later this summer, I continue to enjoy re-reading Stegner’s Crossing to Safety and Wendell Berry’s tales of Port William. Having grown up in many places in Arkansas it is difficult to call any one place home, but Mary and I have d3 iced that Columbus, Indiana is the place where we will settle in retirement.

    • Shirley Showalter on June 13, 2021 at 9:17 am

      Michael, such a rich offering of ideas here. Thanks for joining the conversation. You make me wish we could have more opportunities to talk, and you are sending me back to Nabokov’s Speak, Memory, a book that I started but never finished. I did bring it with me, so it made the cut on my aspirations for reading more as my own book goes to press this summer.

      Stuart and I visited Columbus, IN, when I was Goshen College president. A fascinating place. I remember thinking, “I could enjoy living here.”

      Planned communities, such as Moravian Manor and Columbus, have a lot going for them. I LOVE what I am calling “porch culture” and “Mailboxes as the village well” culture here. The only thing we lack is racial diversity. I hope the administration can find some creative ways to solve that problem.

  8. Maren Tirabassi on June 13, 2021 at 5:59 am

    Thank you for the window into your own life and the memories it evoked in me.

    • Shirley Showalter on June 13, 2021 at 9:18 am

      Thank YOU, Maren, for taking time to read and respond.

  9. Melodie M Davis on June 14, 2021 at 7:35 am

    The farm home I grew up in near Middlebury still stands; I lived there for 17 years and have been back inside two times I think, once when my cousin owned it and once later when an Amish family who now own it gracefully let us do a walk through after my dad died. It is now cutting to drive by and miss the huge red bank barn that stood for so long along CR 22 between Goshen and Middlebury, but I can’t blame the current owners. It probably needed a bucket of money to make it safe again.

    It would be fun to redo the house for a bed and breakfast, but it does not have great bones as does your ancestral home. I’m wondering when you go back further, what you know of the natives who would have lived in the Litiz area. People are paying so much attention to that these days.

    Thanks for the view from your “spot” in your new home. I’ve been anxious to read all about it! Blessings,

    • Shirley Showalter on June 14, 2021 at 7:55 pm

      It’s a wonderful gift to have the chance to re-visit a childhood home. I’m glad you have found hospitable owners and were able to show you the house. Our barn is gone too, but the consolation is that the limestones that had been gathered out of the fields in the 1730s were taken up the hill to be placed in the new house my mother built after she sold the farm. So a little of the barn remains.

      You ask about the natives. Several years ago I wrote this post: https://shirleyshowalter.com/before-the-white-man-the-longhouse-and-other-stories-of-shelter. Thanks for your interest and your good question.

      I want to explore this question more, however. I understand that there were Nanticoke Indians living close by in the colonial period. If I discover more, I will share it. Lititz is famous for its spring water, and that would have been an attractive feature for Native Americans also.

  10. Donna Sassaman Hixson on June 14, 2021 at 1:13 pm

    Loved this post because Forgotten Seasons was our “homeplace” when visiting my mother, who lived in Lititz until 2012. Although I grew up in Reading, PA, Lancaster County became like home to me because my mother had moved there. Suzanne and Dale were our first thoughtful and generous hosts who shared the wonderful history of Jacob Huber’s Tavern. Then Jay and Kathy provided a welcoming and soothing
    oasis for my husband and me when my mother became ill, and then died at age 88. So we experienced many life passages in our home away from home in this house. The friendships and memories are sweet and rewarding. When I think of this place, it is like going home again.

    • Shirley Showalter on June 14, 2021 at 8:13 pm

      Thanks so much for sharing this story, Donna. You confirm the gratitude I feel for the good stewards of the house after we left — and for the mission of providing hospitality to strangers. I am glad you came to know the Groffs and the Wengers. They both gave so much of themselves and their gifts to their guests. You will be happy to know that soon the house will be available again to rent. I think it will be listed on AirBnB. I am sorry that you can’t visit your mother anymore, but there are many places to enjoy in the Lititz/Lancaster area.

  11. Bill Pezick on June 14, 2021 at 6:41 pm

    After living about 55 years in very nice parts of California — first East of the Sierras, then in the East Bay area of San Francisco — I have some concern that the rigorous seasons (Winter and Summer) and the overall quality of medical care might well shorten my life. Despite memories and connections with Lititz and Rothsville, I do love it here,
    And your pictures are delightful and spark memories.

    • Shirley Showalter on June 14, 2021 at 8:27 pm

      Bill! How good to have a fellow Warwick Warrior (!) respond here. You have chosen to make your home in places I know are lovely and are right for you. It was good to hear from you and to know you have good memories of this home too. All best!

      • Bill Pezick on June 14, 2021 at 8:41 pm

        Shirley, many thanks for your kind reply! Once COVID recedes, I look forward to visiting Lititz for a postponed Warwick High School reunion. Perhaps we can meet. Meanwhile, please continue to pose your wonderful pictures! Bill

        • Shirley Showalter on June 14, 2021 at 8:47 pm

          Let’s stay in touch. Would love to see you if it works out.

  12. Henry H Hershey on June 14, 2021 at 10:27 pm

    Tom Wolfe was right. You can’t go home again in the same way that one cannot step into the **same** stream twice; as Alan Parson’s Band proclaimed: “Time keeps flowing like a river.” The Lititz you are returning to is not the Lititz you left 55 years ago, I’m sure you know that, I’m sure you will discover. Lititz is now one of the “coolest small towns in the USA,” and all that entails: brewers and distillers up and down main street, traffic at a standstill on Friday afternoons. Gone are the hardware store, the men and woman’s clothiers, the multiple neighborhood corner grocery stores, bankers that knew your family and could issue credit based on the families good name. Times, and towns change, still and all, Lititz is a wonderful town, and it is good to have you back home. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_TtfzxvGwA BTW, thanks for the photo credit.

    • Shirley Showalter on June 15, 2021 at 7:53 am

      I’m so glad hyperbole brought you out to comment, Henry. I always value the perspective of my favorite brother. Thanks for the morning reverie from Alan Parson’s Project. We are both feeling the mighty power of time flowing like a river. Glad to be back in the boat with you again.

  13. Henry H Hershey on June 15, 2021 at 10:48 pm

    I’ll try not to rock that boat.

    • Shirley Showalter on June 20, 2021 at 6:16 pm

      🙂

  14. Shirley Showalter on June 20, 2021 at 6:21 pm

    Anne Lamott begins her latest book Dusk, Night, Dawn with this Ursula K. Le Guin poem

    Hymn to Time

    Time says “Let there be”
    every moment and instantly
    there is space and the radiance
    of each bright galaxy.

    And eyes beholding radiance.
    And the gnats’ flickering dance.
    And the seas’ expanse,
    And death, and chance.

    Time makes room
    for going and coming home
    and in time’s womb
    begins all ending.

    Time is being and being
    time, it is all one thing,
    the shining , the seeing,
    the dark abounding.

  15. Judith Trumbo on June 27, 2021 at 10:44 am

    I waited until I could indulge myself more fully with your blog. This morning I’m sitting on our porch overlooking the fields and farms that are the Showalter home place and am reminded of Psalm 16:6, The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.

    Lititz, by way of Rothsville, is one of those pleasant spaces. Whenever I bike in Lancaster Co, I make a point to ride past 34 Twin Brook Rd, the home of my paternal grandparents. Yes, you can go home…. You just can’t go back. Only forward as you are doing! Miss you and hope our biking paths cross soon, dear Shirley!

    • Shirley Showalter on June 29, 2021 at 9:55 am

      Dear Judith,

      You have a deep contemplative spirit. As you prepare for your own tradition, it will serve you well.

      I hope to see you here soon. The Lititz-Ephrata path would be perfect for me as an enthusiastic but not very daring biker.

      Would love to hear your own family stories about Twin Brook Rd.

      As my dear husband always says, “Onward!”

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