Dotted with stone buildings and tucked into a rolling landscape of century farms and historic waterways, it’s a place that shaped me as a person, as well as the writer I’ve become.
Several weeks ago, I attended Sunday service in my mother’s home church.
That church marked the different seasons of her life from baptism through to Sunday School, marriage to my dad and finally, a service to celebrate her life after her sudden death.
On the Sunday I attended, pews that would once have been packed with villagers were mostly empty. The organ was shuttered, the choir made up of a handful of stalwart voices, and most of the parishioners were near or beyond retirement age.
“You look familiar,” she said. “Do you have a family connection with this church?”
When I explained that I did, her face creased into a broad smile. “I remember your mother and grandmother and recognized the family resemblance.”
As a child and young adult, visits to both my parents’ hometowns were marked by a similar refrain. In the small town where my dad grew up, everyone insisted I took after his side of the family. With my mom’s kin, and despite my blue eyes and lighter hair in a family of “Black Irish,” I was her miniature.
I always insisted I looked like myself, but on that Sunday, at a time when both the church and my family of origin are sadly depleted, recognition of a family resemblance warmed my heart.
And how wonderful that my ties to family and place are etched on the contours of my face.
In a world that can often seem anonymous and rootless, I’m celebrating that connection to my past—although I could do without being confronted by my dad’s nose whenever I look in a mirror!