Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Farewell Sumter


I'm back from Sumter, South Carolina, my home town where I was taking care of my father as he recovered from a broken arm and a nasty infection from the hospital. He and Alyson will be moving into a new house in Columbia in the middle of June... So I said goodbye yesterday to Sumter, not quite for good as I have to return over Xmas and figure out what to do with everything that they left behind and whether or not to sell the house in this market. But goodbye to my childhood home. It's a bit sad but I am happy that I was able to return to South Carolina during spring time and catch Sumter at its best.

I moved to Sumter in 1975 and went to Washington Elementary School, Crosswell Elementary School, Bates Middle School, Council Street campus of Sumter High School, and finally the "new campus" of Sumter High School out at McCray's Mill Road. I left in August 1985 to move to Columbia but still spent every Christmas in Sumter since 1975.

Gradually, all my high school friends left - not really surprising since Sumter is a military town. My neighbors, the little old spinster and widow ladies on Warren Court who kept an eye on me and taught me how to eat divinity, Mary Jane candies, and narced on me to my mother when I kicked a kickball into their azalea beds, have all died off or gone off to nursing homes. New people moved in and I got to know them as adults but my job kept me traveling and I never got home as often as I should. I also liked to keep to myself when I was home - recovering from Washington DC. My friend Mike and I used to try to meet for a Christmas Eve drink to try to rock some fun out of the town and relive our crazy summer whee he was constantly grounded and I was the good girl who drove all those crazy boys around while listening to Dire Straits singing "Money for Nothing".

The town has not done well in the 30 plus years that I've lived there - the businesses have all been hollowed out of the downtown area where we live and new "Generica" restaurants line the highway to the military base interspersed with "pre fabricated housing" and car dealerships. The downtown attempts to revitalize itself but the only decent lunch counter closed down while I was home. The library is lovely - a new beautiful building with plenty of internet terminals for the youth and adults of Sumter. The beautiful old houses are stil there - some lovingly cared for, others falling apart genteely. The crime is still there. Prostitutes walk down the street in front of my father's house and con artists have no problems walking up to our open window and asking for money.

Still, its sad to go. I know all the back roads and all the places where I ripped around town - first on my bicycle and then in my little Ford Escort. My father has good friends in Sumter that he will miss. We will try to bring him back as often as possible to stay in touch with them. And my childhood home is being dismantled. But the memories are all there and my father and sister will be safe and happy in their new home. And that's what a home is really about - not the physical building, after all.

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