This was published around Christmas time quite a while ago, the day before 2008. i chose to publish it now, as it is in chronological order of the earlier efforts to recapture my time with my hometown newspaper. It also addresses change. Lebanon has changed since i wrote this column. It has grown. It is becoming more a suburb of Lebanon. They have widened and improved many roads, especially the interstates. Thus, traffic is much worse. They have torn down more of my memories. There are a lot of nice places and the town square has new life. The biggest change is my parents are gone, which means i can’t come up with excuses to go back more often, and my stays are shorter, much shorter. But i will be back, and hopefully, another dinner with Maureen, Henry and Brenda, Eddie and Brenda will occur again. It cannot be soon enough.
Tennessee in general and Lebanon in particular is not only a Christmas escape for me; it is a place to reflect on change. This year, the change, past, present, and future, seems more palpable.
Often, we refuse to accept change as inevitable. We spend post-Christmas creating New Year Resolutions, which we usually blow off in a week or so.
Just before Christmas, my wife and I shared a dinner at the Chop House with special folks. Change joined us for the evening.
Growing up, I spent almost as much time at the home of Henry Harding; his maternal grandparents, J. J. and Maude Arnold; and his parents, George and Virginia Harding, as I did at my own home. Henry remains my “best” friend. He and his wife Brenda joined us.
The couple’s troika was completed by Eddie and Brenda Callis. Eddie has been a close friend since we met in high school as sports competitors from Castle Heights and Lebanon High School. Brenda’s father, Jim Horn Hankins, recruited my father to work for at Hankins and Smith Motor Company in 1939, and they became partners in the late 1950’s. So Brenda and I have known each other pretty much all of our lives.
We spoke of families, children, grandchildren, and parents. We spoke of friends. We spoke of adventures growing up and shared stories of places we have been.
Essentially we talked about change.
We talked amidst change itself. My sister, Martha Duff, had played in this structure, now the Chop House, with her friend Kay Lucas, when it was the Castle Heights superintendent’s home, and Ralph Lucas served in that position.
Down the road, my mother played with the son of the original occupants of the Mitchell House, which Danny Evins so graciously renovated for Cracker Barrel’s headquarters. Further down on the original Castle Heights Avenue is the house my parents bought in 1942 when it was one of only two or three houses on the street and where they lived for sixty-one years.
On the dining area wall hung a picture of my brother, Joe, attired in a Heights jersey. A photo of me at the 1962 graduation dance hung in the opposite quarter. The placement was appropriate. Joe and I always seem to end up in opposite corners even in choice of homes: Joe in Vermont, me in the Southwest corner. We often reflect on how we have managed change differently.
At my age, change seems more important. I long for what use to be, overlooking the negative aspects of the past. The past seems more poignant. The need to share memories with my family, especially the new grandson, is strong.
Change is never what we expect it to be. The 1950’s predictions for the next century are comical looking at them from this end. Sometimes change is better than expected. Sometimes change is worse.
Growth, i.e. change, in Middle Tennessee is small compared to San Diego. A community of 100,000 has grown up about three miles south of our home since a large ranch estate was settled in 1995. The expansion of developments may soon extend to the Cleveland National Forest to the east.
The increase in population has produced traffic congestion. Water supply is more tenuous than ever. Utility rates have risen dramatically. Housing costs are astronomical. Politics has become more profitable and more divisive.
The plus side is convenience in shopping and dining. The developments are rife with parks, walking trails, nearby modern schools, and an increase in services.
When I see change in Lebanon, I winch with concern it may drive away many of the things in Lebanon I hold dear. However, it seems to me Lebanon has managed change pretty well since I left for the Navy in 1967. Good change without destruction of the past appears to have been the rule.
Dining with my life-long friends, it occurred to me they (and you folks who live here) have permanent connection to the past, which might explain the change management of the community. The sense of community is not strong in the Southwest corner. Change seems more precocious, more uncontrollable there.
Before this article is published, I will be back in the Southwest corner, attempting to manage change positively. If all goes well, I will return to Middle Tennessee several times in the next twelve months and find change continues to be positive here.
It’s a nice place to come home to. I hope that never changes.