If Only In My Dreams

It was early Thanksgiving morning when I gently pulled back the drapes and peered across the back yard into the mile-wide valley below. The upstairs hall window of my boyhood home provided the perfect vantage point to see not only a part of my old neighborhood, but a good portion of the small, coal-mining community where I spent a majority of my life. My mom and dad purchased the house in the fall of 1974 and while gazing out the hall window soon developed into a morning ritual, it quickly evolved into a lifestyle and a part of everyday life.

When local fire sirens would blare, declaring a fire emergency or accident, we’d go to the hall window. When thunder and snow storms blasted across the summit of the Laurel Highlands, threatening the security of our surroundings or delivering the promise of a day off from school, we’d go to the hall window. When we spent the night watching yet another lunar eclipse, we’d go to the hall window. When spring arrived, we’d go to the hall window. When my sister and I wanted to communicate with our friends, we’d go to the hall window. When my mom and dad wanted to voice their displeasure with my actions in the back yard, they’d go to the hall window!

I can’t tell you exactly how many times I’ve visited the hall window during my lifetime, but I can tell you it is different now. The old, original window was replaced and the view is now altered. There’s no longer an old garage in the back yard. Many of the trees I used to climb are gone. Some of the houses look the same, although a few were torn down or remodeled in some way. Several of our dear neighbors have passed away, taking their eternal rest. A handful of landmark buildings were demolished and various businesses no longer exist. The town of Nanty-Glo, Pennsylvania has transitioned from an industrial era mining machine to a quiet, quaint, and unassuming community.

They say you can’t go home again and for the longest time I shrugged it off as nonsense. I could go home again! The house was there! My parents were there! The town was still there! But, I can tell you it is different now and as I gazed out the window once more I sadly witnessed scenes, images, and people fade into the dimension of yesteryear. I desperately called out to my friends to gather once more in the back yard for a game of baseball, but no one answered. I knocked on a neighbor’s door with an offer to shovel snow from the walk, but the faces appearing were those of total strangers. I leafed through the phone book to look up the names of people I knew and they were nowhere to be found. I waited patiently by the mailbox for our trusty mailman to bring me one last piece of life-changing correspondence, but he had long since retired and passed away. With tears streaming down my face I watched as familiar people, places, and events fundamentally morphed into nothing more than a distant memory. I can’t really go home again. Nothing will truly be the same as it was years ago.

It’s the holiday season and like many of you I will make my way home once again, but this time with a divergent perspective. I will cherish the present – every moment with my family, friends and neighbors will be meaningful because these times will never come again. I will look boldly to the future and embrace the Hope of Christmas for a bright tomorrow.  I will relish the past by remembering the wonderful memories of my family, friends, neighborhood, and hometown. Yes I’ll be home for Christmas Nanty-Glo, if only in my dreams.


“Christmas Eve will find me, where the love light gleams.

I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.”


©Copyright 2013 Scott Rhoades/Ivory Hill Studios

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