When memories collide with reality, it's unsettling, and that's exactly what I witnessed recently when I drove along the Toccoa River in Blue Ridge, Georgia and saw the charred remains of a restaurant I used to visit with my parents. I remember how we dined overlooking the beautiful river. I remember how it was often chilly sitting at our table. I remember lots of laughter and talk about how blessed we were to eat together in such a pristine area where we could enjoy each others' company along the relaxing river.
Today the restaurant's foundation is covered in ruins. . . a bottle here, a glass there, chairs stacked along the riverbank, garbage cans behind a screen, large timbers down the hill, and the naked concrete block foundation. The smell of smoke permeates the air two months after the restaurant burned.
I don't know what happened to the restaurant; I only know that its destruction initially ripped away my cheerful memories of family, place, and security.
Initially, I thought of the pain of the family that lost their livelihood, the community that lost its meeting place, and scores of people like me who lost cherished memories. As I stood on the riverbank and tried to envision the restaurant as it once was, however, three other images captured my attention.
I saw daffodils blooming at river's edge.
I saw a bright yellow chair sticking out among the ruins.
And, finally, I saw the tattered American flag flying beside the restaurant's remains. In the poor economy we have endured the last few years, it's hard not to see the flag as a metaphor of our rough times. Just as the cherished flag continues flying despite its holes and tears, I choose to believe that America will also prevail.
Yes, I know this is nostalgic and Pollyannaish, but I CHOOSE to believe and hope that better days are coming. And, I hope one day soon, the restaurant owners will rebuild and open their doors to a new generation of diners who will make new memories.
Because of the bad economy that led to hundreds of teacher lay-offs in my school district, I decided to retire in June of 2010, the end of my 32nd year of teaching. I'm still trying to discern how I feel about retirement. Until recently, I maintained a blog about teaching. If you would like to read my thoughts about teaching, please visit: http://www.gladlywoulditeach.com/