Rachel wrote this post – Martin
Our trip to Tampa was an adventure. Memories are challenged as they confront the changes in the landscapes and street improvements. So even in the right vicinity we took a number of turns as we looked for Machado Street and College Hill Mennonite Church. Then suddenly Dad said, there it is, there’s the church! And so it was! We drove slowly in and Dad got out and I parked. Soon we had met both Pastor Roy Williams and to our surprise Walter Crawford. It was a good time to visit.
When we left the church we continued our driving adventure down 22nd Street crossing the traffic light avenues–Lake, Martin Luther King Blvd., and Osborne on our way to Wilder Ave. where our family lived. To our surprise, Wilder also has a light now. So we turned left into Wilder and drove slowly down this little road with aging little family homes. With a car behind us wondering why this car with a Minnesota license was on their street we decided we should not try to get a photo. 1909 Wilder is recognizable, though where the drive used to be there is now another house. The big live oak beside the corner house where the Ramer family lived is still there and we remembered Conrad and the Ramer kids playing in the yard.
We drove slowly on to 15th Street and then on to Ida Street and turned into slowly into the street where our family lived for my childhood years. Again we mused our way down the street to the far corner and turned around to come back…past old Mr. Copeland’s house, and the Rodriguez house, the big churchyard field where we neighborhood kids played kick ball, with the huge live oak in the back, the little church and our house next door. It all looks so different and so much the same.
We saw the house where my oldest and longest friend Maria had lived the last time we visited her. Could she still be there? I was reluctant to check (why?!) but Dad got out and talked to the man just backing a truck out of the drive, and I saw yes, it was her husband. So I parked and with his invitation, we went in. Maria welcomed us so warmly and we had precious moments sharing with her. She caught us up to date with her family, and her strong faith in God that she traces directly back to “Brother and Sister Lehman” and the church across the street. Finding common ground while acknowledging that our life experience has been so different, I am greatly humbled to realize that we still feel so close and can so easily share with one another. After numerous hugs, we knew we needed to be on our way.
As I drove home to Sarasota after our afternoon and evening, I pondered the varied experiences of the day and marveling the relationships our family formed during my growing up in Tampa, and the privilege of being able to visit with these people once again. The authenticity of the stories told to us these days stirs my spirit and I’m filled with gratitude.