Friday, October 06, 2006

Girl Friday: Down River Road

Readers who have been coming around a while know that sometimes I get a little wistful about home, even though home ain't much to write home about. The Ohio Valley area has a good deal of unemployment, just like Northeast Ohio. But it hasn't gotten much worse; in fact I think Cleveland has now passed it up, being the poorest city in America for the second straight year.

It's been kind of an emotional week, with lots of highs, like the trip to IBMA, and the lows, like the shooting at the Amish schoolhouse. I'm surprised how much that latter piece has affected me. At the same time I feel so much hope and happiness and want to look forward, lots of other worries are also beginning to pile up, making me feel like some things are a lost cause.

These are the times I am suddenly caught with a deep wish to find that special place that is always home. That Ohio River Valley might not look like much, and it might not be much, but for me it will always possess a certain magical healing power.

As this all was quietly brewing, a friend I was talking with on the phone the other night got curious about my hometown and pulled it up on Google maps. Over the line I heard the names of streets and landmarks and parks and tiny little I nearly had forgotten about, places of my youth. and images and memories so strong it's like I was there driving along. These familiar names brought to mind the places I'd walked, kissed, laughed, learned to drive, grew up. Yet to go back now is almost impossible.

The parking lot in the picture at left was the place my mother's house stood until a couple of years ago; another picture below shows the United Dairy that has overtaken the side streets I tried to cut through to get my family's welding supply store. The tanks behind the fence still bear my name, but, was I ever really there?

I was, once upon a time. I was a little girl riding in the back seat of an old station wagon on the way to get a black raspberry cone at Isaly's. I was a kid come by the office to see my dad after a trip to the dentist. I was a high school sophomore plodding through my summer reading list in my mother's yard next to her perfectly wild English garden. I was a new graduate gone mad for my first real love, nights spent learning and longing parked in the high grass along that river, as barges rolled by. I was a co-ed on my mother's front porch, sitting in the dark listening for my heart's big ideas. I was a mother, a sister, a daughter down in that valley. I've never been all the things I am anywhere else.

Maybe that's why that place, as run down and redneck as it might still be, means as much as it does. I'm not alone. Many of the women I graduated with from high school have made good lives back in that valley, as professionals, and mothers.

One of the best experiences I had at this year's IBMA event was being introduced to Claire Lynch. I've written about her before on this blog and you'll be hearing a lot more. She is a treasure, and her band is marvelous. Missy Raines is IBMA's bass player of the year; I shook Dave Harvey's hand with my left hand and told him I hope it helps my mando playing (he's stellar). Claire and Jim Hurst tie it down with guitar.

This song has helped me keep it together this week. It's called Down in the Valley and is just how I feel. It's precious to me, the way a song like this can show up just when you need it most. It soothed this open aching and confused heart, filled with everything imaginable and no place to put it, longing for that comfort of what was once home, desperately wanting a new one, but wishing nonetheless for just a minute in the dark on my mother's porch.

Down in the Valley

If my feet could walk
Down that old dirt road
I would follow where it goes
Down in the valley where the warm wind blows

When all peace is lost
And my head hangs low
There’s a longing calling me home
Down in the valley where the dogwood grows

And I carry some comfort with me
Anywhere I go
And I keep it close
And it feeds my soul

To be down in the valley where the river flows

And I carry some comfort with me
Anywhere I go
And I keep it close
And it feeds my soul

To be down in the valley where the river flows

There’s a still small voice
Only my heart knows
I hear it calling, calling me home
Down in the valley where the warm wind blows
Down in the valley where I call my home, sweet home

Down in the valley where the river flows


At October 11, 2015 8:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Down in the Valley by Claire Lynch really is a beautiful song. Claire's music "feeds my soul".


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