Routine leads me across it every day, but a couple weekends ago I was walking across an old throw rug in my garage when it caught my attention more than usual. It comes from the boyhood home of one of my oldest friends.
The rug is old, maybe older than the friendship, and it is partly tattered around the edges and starting to show its age. It is in my garage because it reminds me of special times at a special place, and warms me inside a bit each time I see it. That’s why it will remain in my garage as long as there is a piece of it left.
The are many similar items in my garage, all reminders of happy moments from times gone by, and often I glance at them with no more than a fleeting thought. But the rug caught my attention the other day, enough that I took a picture of it and sent it to my old friend, along with this message: “Hey, was thinking about you when I walked over this carpet. Mrs. Florence Holmes is still around. Makes me smile…”
In return, I received a special picture from my friend of his mother. The picture lightened my day, and for a few minutes sent me daydreaming back to those special times at that special place that was the rug’s original home.
It is hard for me to explain why the Holmeses’ home holds such a special place in my book of memories. But I suppose it is because it was a little different from other homes I spent time in growing up. It was warm and cozy, had three full stories where boys could find all kinds of adventure, could be a bit spooky — at least in my younger years — and watched me transform from a little boy into an adult.
It was also like a refuge in some ways for myself and many others during our formative years. It was a place where I felt welcome and at ease. It was decorated uniquely and had amazing woodwork, and there were specific, almost unspoken rules when we visited – like if the weather was wet or snowy outside, taking your shoes off in the back room where many of those throw rugs were placed before entering the rest of the home.
Oddly enough, my relationship with the Holmes family started when I was a paperboy for this very newspaper during my elementary school years. Their place was one of the stops on my route, and every other week or so I had to knock on the front door of the massive place to receive my pay.
Almost every time I knocked, the youngest of the Holmes family’s four children would come to the door. He was a year younger than me, but bigger, and seemed to enjoy pestering me. He always struck up a conversation, then often chased me down the sidewalk, playfully whacking me with the newspaper I had just delivered.
I do not recall exactly how it all developed, but we did not live far from each other, a friendship developed, and we have been good friends ever since.
We only see each other about once a year now, but when we do, it seems like time fades away, and if only for a while, we are young again.
Sometime during those years when I was delivering the paper, my buddy invited one of my brothers and I to spend a week with his family at the lodge at Pike Lake State Park. We were invited back several more years, and as the seasons passed, the number of boys joining the Holmes family on the annual outing gradually increased. It lasted until the summer between my junior and senior years in high school, when six or seven of us boys made the trip. We were starting to get a little more ornery by that time and did not follow all the unspoken rules we knew we were supposed to very well. That was the end of the Pike Lake years.
Those summers at Pike Lake hold so many special memories that it would take many columns to write about them all, and I have written of some of them in the past.
But while our days at Pike Lake came to an end that one summer, our times at the Holmeses’ home did not. Our visits became less frequent as the years passed, and my buddy moved away, but when he would return home it was always special to visit him at that old house on Walnut Street that still stands today.
I was in my 40s when his mother, Mrs. Florence Holmes, passed away. Not long thereafter her family held a large auction, selling what they did not want of her vast collection of things in her home. The house held so many fond memories that I had to have some pieces of it, and one of them was the piece of carpet that I walk over every day.
I was more than fortunate to have a place like the Holmeses’ home to visit when I was kid and beyond. It was kind of like a refuge from a storm, with love and friendship packed into every nook and cranny.
I have often thought of knocking on the front door of the old house one more time to ask if I could maybe look around for a minute. But then, really, there is no need. Pieces from the home are in my garage and in my memories, and if only for a brief second, the warmth of that old home is rekindled each and every time I step on that old rug.
Jeff Gilliland is the editor of The Times-Gazette. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 937-402-2522.