Home always has a place for your heart

They say you can never go home, that things have changed, and it’s never the same.

Maybe there is some truth to that, but I think home will always be home no matter where your life resides.

When I think of home, I think of Altoona and the mountains.

I think of the Horseshoe Curve and my dad, who worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad. I still remember the massive steam engines, so huge when I was a little kid, and now they are just as impressive.

How lucky we were to live so close to this national historic landmark, and how sad that I never gave it another thought.

I appreciate it so much more now.

I loved the beautiful park along Union Avenue with the cliffs we played in all the time. God only knows how none of us ever fell and broke our necks as Mom always warned would happen, but we did it every day and never gave it a thought.

I remember hundreds of times of walking through the culverts underground by Mansion Park.

It seemed like you walked for miles over stones and rocks slippery with moss. It probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do, but who cared? It was fun.

I had no idea what the Allegheny Furnace was in 1965 or what importance it was to Altoona. It was just another fun place to play. I actually had to Google it, and now I wonder how we ever made it out of adolescence alive without Google.

I remember Gables and Bon Ton and Shiff Shoes.

I loved Friday night football and marching on the field at Mansion Park and the smell of the evening wet grass.

I also loved how good my majorette boots made my legs look. I remember one terribly fateful day I was walking down 6th Avenue past the playground at Adams School thinking at 15 how good I looked in my madras shorts and tye-dyed shirt and, of course, white plastic go-go boots.

It was a great time to be 15 until my dad drove by and saw me, then the screeching of tires followed by a “Jesus, Mary and Joseph, get in the car” brought me back to the reality of a good Catholic upbringing.

I remember our neighbors, Mary and Frank Udoutch, whose life I just butted into. I loved the smell of homemade bread on the days Mary’s mother baked, and I loved watching Jumping Johnny DeFazio, Chief White Owl and Bruno Sammartino on Studio Wresting with Frank.

Most of all, I loved Lawrence Welk on Saturday nights as I sat with Mary and Frank, enjoying the champagne music maker in all his glory. I stayed with Mary and Frank the night before my wedding in 1972.

I remember the importance of holidays and Sunday dinners with everyone around the dining room table arguing lovingly with each other.

I remember Iron City beer for Dad and Cataba Pink for Mom.

I loved the cuckoo clock on the kitchen wall and the smell of sheets hanging outside to dry on hot summer days.

I still drive by the empty space where our house was on 7th Avenue and 27th Street every time I come home, and it still makes me sad that it is longer standing.

Even though I am not there, the little city in the valley of the mountains is still home.

My memories are strong on this quiet Friday night in Cincinnati as I sit like John Boy typing out thoughts as fast as they pop into my head, as if the memories will fade if I don’t write them down.

It’s good to go home every now and then, to a place of quiet beauty, to a time of sweet innocence and to the memories of pure and simple joy, even if it’s only in my thoughts.

Home is where the heart is, and tonight my heart longs for home.

(Editor’s note: The writer is a 1971 graduate of Bishop Guilfoyle High School. She resides in Hamilton, Ohio.)