Mountains, Mallo Cups, and Train Whistles

“When a community loses its memory, its members no longer know one another. . . How can they know one another if they have not learned one another’s stories? If they do not know one another’s stories, how can they know whether or not to trust one another? People who do not trust one another do not help one another, and moreover, they fear one another. And this is our predicament now.” (Wendell Berry, qtd. by Rod Dreher)

When I wake up in my brother’s house, eight counties away from my home, the sound of train whistles reminds me of home. But those rails are so close, the sound so much louder, I know I’m not home. An early morning visit to the deck off his dining room confirms the conclusion. No mountains. A low horizon.

My older brothers were the adventurers. The eldest did a stint in the navy that took him to the Mediterranean. He settled in Texas. My next brother only moved across those eight counties that separate us.

I have traveled. But my zip code never changed.  My residence remained where the mountain ridges surround me, the train whistles serenade me as they have since my birth, and the Mallo Cups are as fresh as fresh can be because the Boyer factory is right in town.

I can’t say I made the better choice. They journeyed with opportunity. My roots grew deeper. But my brothers planted roots too. They became part of new communities. It isn’t just the sights, flavors, and sounds of home. It’s community. It’s people.

Americans are famous for being movers. Horace Greeley admonished the adventurous to “Go west!”  And westward we turned. But today most of us stay put. Fifty-four percent of us live near the place where we grew up.

Thirty-five percent of us left and then came back.

Rod Dreher is one who came back. The author had hit the big time in large northeastern cities. But after his sister died from cancer, home beckoned to him. He penned The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, chronicling her life and death as well as his journeys away from home and back.

But Dreher had another book to write. Coming home was not what he hoped. In How Dante Can Save Your Life, he recounts that the return from his odyssey did not produce the peace he sought but instead brought him a stress-related illness.

Dreher found peace partly through the pages of Dante’s journey through the eternal regions. But even more important, resolution came through the relationships that developed through his faith in Christ. Companions walked with him through the stress and illness to eventual healing and wholeness.

He told his sister’s story. He shared his own. He learned the stories of others. He found those he could trust. And those who could trust him.
Dreher says, “I came back to Louisiana looking for my family and my home. I found God and this church” (278).

Dreher traded in his professional quest for a personal one. He ended up on a journey he did not foresee. He did not get what he hoped to find.

What he got was so much more.


Restoring the Shattered: Illustrating Christ’s Love Through the Church in One Accord now available in e-version on Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Photo Credit: Joe Calzaretta, Blue Knob Mountain, Central Pennsylvania

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13 Replies to “Mountains, Mallo Cups, and Train Whistles”

  1. “When a community loses its memory, its members no longer know one another. . . How can they know one another if they have not learned one another’s stories? This is such a good reminder to continue to share and tell the family stories so our children will know.

    1. I know my kids have heard some of my stories more than a few times. But when I’m gone, those stories will live on. I remember the stories my parents told me of the Great Depression and World War II. History lives on as well. Thanks, Elaine, for reading and commenting. God bless!

  2. I loved my time around the mountains in East Tennessee. I would have to say that I am one that has ventured extensively beyond my home but love the communities that I have got to connect with! Now, I am growing deep roots in East Alabama, learning and sharing stories of the community I am a part of. Thank you for your post!

  3. These are really interesting statistics, Nancy. My husband and I live in the town where he grew up, which is far from my childhood home. However, home is where the heart is, and like Dreher, my heart is with Jesus, so my home is an eternal one, and I’m just passing through this world.

    1. Heather, I wonder if that yearning of the heart for home isn’t preparation for Heaven. When we get there, it will be just like coming home. Thanks for reading and commenting. God bless!

  4. My parents were the only ones out of large families to move. My dad was one of 4 and my mom was one of 7. All of their brothers, sisters, moms, dads, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews still live in the same city where they grew up. The only reason I do not live close to them currently is that they moved when I was in college. College was 4 hours away thanks to my dad who forced me to go “away” to college in fear that I would never leave home at all if I did not. I met my husband shortly after graduating and we commenced to moving closer and closer to his home. We now reside in the city where he was born and raised, with the sister who lives furthest from home residing in the nearest big city a grand total of 1 hour from here. Crazy statistic. Life takes us all on journeys of learning. May we all get the “more” Dreher received in his life journey.

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