We all have that place where we grew up that holds special memories for us. For me, that place is a small 1950s-style house in the Midwest.
My husband and I traveled with our kids back to Iowa last week to attend two weddings on my mom's side of the family. When you have a big family with dozens of first cousins, who themselves have lots of adult children, it's no surprise that two of them will choose to get married on the same day.
We stayed in my childhood home, where my oldest sister has lived since our mom passed away more than 10 years ago.
While my husband slept on a bunk bed in the guest room downstairs, the kids were in the large bedroom upstairs, which used to belong to my brother and was later passed on to my sister when he enlisted in the Navy. I slept on the other bunk bed in the teeny, tiny bedroom where I spent most of my nights as a kid.
Even though my sister has changed a few things, the house looks pretty much like it did more than 40 years ago.
When I stare up at the same ceiling that I used to look at, I can almost hear my mom and dad at the kitchen table, laughing and joking while playing cards with my uncle Harold. I can look out the window and practically see the snow in the air and watch it pile up on the ground, meaning that school will be canceled for the day and we can go sledding or build snowmen.
Even the weddings brought back a lot of memories.
My mom had 10 brothers and sisters. When I was growing up, every wedding and funeral meant that my mom and her five sisters would have a chance to catch up on the family news. They all lived within a couple of hours' drive of one another, but because of their kids and busy lives, they didn't all get together very often.
I always loved to stand nearby and just listen to them talk. They were so in sync that they would often finish each other's stories.
Now there is only one sister left and she couldn't attend the weddings. It just didn't feel right to have all my cousins there, but not the sisters who were the foundation of the family. It was almost too quiet, even though the banquet hall was filled with noise.
I remember when my dad died, all the sisters were at the wake, talking boisterously as usual. One of my aunts came over to apologize for them having such a good time together and being inappropriate. It didn't seem at all out of place to me, and it would have been much more sad if they had to restrain themselves just in the name of decorum.
Maybe it's because Halloween is on their minds, but our kids kept saying that they wanted to visit a cemetery. There is one just about a block from my sister's house, so we went there on Sunday afternoon. Even though my mom and dad are in another cemetery, a close childhood friend of mine is buried there.
We walked around for awhile and couldn't find her grave, which was probably for the best anyway. Sometimes memories can be too much of a good thing.
SHARON RAGHAVACHARY is on the steering committee for Crescenta Valley Community Assn. and a member of the Family Advisory Council for Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.