Going back home


Last week Cindy and I drove to Alexandria Louisiana to perform a burial for one of our church members. I have driven through the town a few times, but the last time I was off the road in the town was 45 years ago. When I was a kid, we used to drive there every year to see my mother's family. Her uncle lived there. He was a preacher and a legend in Baptist life. I still have the Bible dictionary he gave me for graduation. 

We would go to the Zoo, see our cousins (technically they were my 2nd cousins, but we called them our cousins) and eat weird food. We often drove down to Baton Rouge to visit with more family and occasionally we would end up in New Orleans. It has been a long time ago.

On the trip down this week, we stopped on the side of the road to change drivers. Right at my feet was a huge pile of crawfish. It looked like an ice chest had been turned over. I grabbed the photo and we continued on our way. I have looked at the photo over and over again. The shapes are so foreign and alien. It is very creepy, but something kept me coming back to the image.

Out of the blue an image came to my mind--the creek. Behind my house was a creek. It was my playground. We jumped the creek, dammed up the creek and dug in the creek. We got soaking wet in the creek. We spent hours fishing in the creek. There were no real fish, but monsters dwelt in the deep. We would take a piece of string and tie a chunk of bacon to it and dangle it in front of the holes dotting the banks of the creek. Occasionally, a wary little pincer would slowly emerge from the darkness and grab the meat. A brief tug of war would ensue and we would almost always emerge with a crawdaddy. They always looked like they were ready for a fight. We captured them. Sometimes we observed them. We were never kind or gentle too them. I feel a little bad for the way I treated them and from snatching them from their homes.

The crawdads made me think about about some quiet simple moments of my childhood when I had little responsibility and an abundance of time. I spent hours outside playing in the water and the woods. I had friends all through the apartment complex which was on the other side of the creek. That area was our Central Park. I feel so fortunate to have grown up by its banks.

During my late adolescence the town decided to pave the creek and turn it into a drainage ditch. Now there is broken glass, graffiti and weeds growing in the cracks of the concrete.  I rarely saw anyone playing in the water. That life is all gone. It's amazing how three seconds on the side of the road has occupied my mind this week with nostalgia, regret, joy and delight. One of the most common words in the Bible is, "Remember." We can look back and see lots of moments of grace if we stop and think. It doesn't sound as good as "stop and smell the roses," but I might say today, "stop and smell the crawdads."