By the time our SUV descended to the river and was passing through Canajoharie where the Beech Nut Baby Food factory used to be, I was busy thinking nostalgically of the valley and remembering my time growing up within its borders. Only a few Brothers were aware, if they remembered my mentioning it, but Utica is my home town.
The visit seemed like a good idea when I awoke this morning, but as the sun climbed higher in the sky I began to wonder what good would it do to visit Utica and bring up all those old memories that couldn’t possibly matter worth a hill of beans. Lima beans. We had no real business there, after all. Utica to me was simply a figment of my past.
When I live in the past, I attempt to force fit myself to a reality that didn't exist. I have visited Utica as an adult two or three times since I left it for good in early 1960's. Like most people, I've gone back to the neighborhood of my younger years, found all the dimensions much smaller than I remembered and then sat and read the local newspaper and wondered why I didn't recognize any of the names printed anywhere in its pages.
It came to me that the Utica I knew no longer exists. It never existed. What I remember is a small city as seen through the eyes of a child, where I thought I knew or at least had heard of almost everyone and had been down every side street and byway and heard all there was to hear and knew all there was to know about the town. But in truth, I knew very little about the city, existing as I did in my tiny child's world. And to be honest, as an adolescent my attention was focused down the railroad tracks that ran through our neighborhood as I thought of the wide world out there ripe for the picking, of growing up and driving a convertible and dating pretty girls. Utica may have been happening all around me, but my head was in the clouds. It's a wonder I saw anything at all while a movie constantly played in my mind of a young man climbing his mountain and reaching the top.
Somewhere up the trail I found challenges to overcome and later realized there were some I would never surmount. Sometimes I would back down a hill and find another route around it. Other times I would not accept defeat and would bang my head against a rock trying to move it out of my path. Sometimes I learned from my experiences. Other times I didn't. The revelations of my limitations were thankfully parsed out to my awareness slowly by a kind and loving God.