Friday, February 17, 2012

Days Gone By

We were sitting in the aerobics pool.  Five women ranging in age from me, the baby at 58, to somewhere in their 70's.  Most were in the 60 age range, but we liked that we all had experiences shared and just a bit different. 

We had been laughing about working out and trying to get in shape, as if it really mattered.  My desire was perhaps different from the rest.  I can work out by myself, and do much of the summer when I ride my bike around my country neighborhoods.  I have a perfectly fine reclining stationary bike which in year's past has gotten me admirably through the winter months, but the last couple of winter years it became less desirable to climb on board..  When the opportunity came to work out at Covenant's new rehab center and enjoy pool time 5 days a week, I tentatively agreed to give it a try.  I told myself it was for the exercise equipment and the chance to be able to talk to others while I used a variety of machines.   I told myself it was a chance to get away from my solitary house during the winter months and talk to other women.  And that was a large part of it, but it soon became apparent, almost love at first toe dabble, that the heated aerobic pool was the real clincher to the deal.  Heated water, a chance to exercise and not feel like I was working at all and if I really pushed myself on the machines before, I could use those wonderful jets in the pool and feel like I was getting the best of massages.  I told myself these were all the reasons I went, but it was more.

Today we sat in a circle, four of the women who had grown up in the west side of Saginaw city.  They found, though disparate in age that they had all attended and graduated from Arthur Hill High School.  They talked of what the  school was like then.  They talked of shopping in the downtown area, taking the bus over, and often walking back across the Genesee Street bridge on summer evenings to their homes.  They all ate at the Home Dairy, as if it were the only place to eat when you went shopping.  It could have been for all I knew.  I was the lone country mouse among this group.  I had actually been born and lived in Hemlock, virtually all of my life.  I had gone away to college but returned for one last summer after graduation and met my now husband, married, and never left.

Though my mother remembered shopping in the downtown as a girl and as a young woman, once she married and moved to the farm, she never looked back to those days, and raised her kids in the country amidst the wonders of catalog and small town shopping.  I don't remember ever going downtown to shop until I was in high school and went with my girlfriends and their mom once.  My mother also spoke fondly of eating at the Home Dairy, and going to the movies in Saginaw and being able to visit relatives who lived in the city and walking all over, even as kids.  Years have changed it and one reason we all wax nostalgic for times in Saginaw that will never come again.  Decades separated these women, but they shared the Home Dairy and the city of Saginaw that was.   A safe place to walk, even after dark on a summer night. 

I can't share that insight, as I remember Saginaw only as places you didn't drive after certain hours.  Even the annual trip to the Saginaw Fair in the south downtown area, became less and less of a thing we did at night, and more and more a day time trip.  My friends had a front row seat to the decline and flight of many in Saginaw.  They ended up in Hemlock.  My children have left Hemlock and have only known a Saginaw slowly dying.   They just tore down the IOOF building on the main street of Hemlock.  The hotel burned down a decade ago.  The roof on the IOOF was caving in.  The stores on the ground floor had been gone for years, the windows boarded over.  An eye sore that had long lost its usefulness and function.  So last month it came down, gone in a day.  The space where it stood looking huge as the gap in our main street becomes greater and another old building is gone.  The hole where the basement was has already been filled and now awaits an unknown buyer.  The main look of Hemlock has changed almost irrevocably.  Richland Township will celebrate its 150th anniversary.  The Sesquicentennial has been planned for almost 3 years.  I never felt as old as I did in realizing all the landmarks I grew up with are now gone.   The Hemlock Hotel is gone, and now the IOOF.  The drugstore is now a quilt shop after being an auto parts store for years.  Ozzie Bauer's store ...gone.   The Dime Store is no longer and Hohman's Garage and Pontiac dealership is also a memory.  Small gas stations and a creamery.  The ramshackle buildings that were the Hess Duck Farm also burned down and the land bought and divided up into a trailer park and subdivision. 

Change must come and just as we women know we are only going to grow older, we also are figuring out that each day is a gift and each day we can climb into that pool and soak away increasing aches is a good thing.  See ya all on Monday morning....

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