If You’re Taking a Trip Down Memory Lane, Don’t Forget Your GPS

When my husband had a conference in Philadelphia last week, I jumped at the chance to accompany him because we used to live in the area a few years ago.  Thirty two, to be exact.  In fact, our youngest son was born in Bryn Mawr, a suburb of Penn’s fair city.  We had many fond memories of our two years there and couldn’t wait to visit our old homestead and have lunch with old friends.

We flew into Philadelphia a day before the conference registration took place, and met our friends in our hotel lobby.  I recognized them immediately, and they recognized George but weren’t too sure about me.  That’s understandable because I actually look younger than I did all those years ago. (I was raising three children then.  Need I say more?)  They and my husband, however, look exactly like they did when we moved there in 1978.  I swear.

Their faces have been obscured to protect the innocent: Me! I hate being upstaged by people who refuse to age. Plus, I didn’t ask permission to publish their photo.

On Sunday we rented a car so we could drive out to a few places that held good memories for us: Valley Forge, the college where my husband used to work, and our old apartment on Goshen Road in West Chester. Valley Forge looked pretty much the same, except it seemed to have more bike trails, and it had a new visitor’s center. We had trouble finding Washington’s Headquarters, though, as it wasn’t where we thought it would be. No, I don’t think they moved it. I think our memories moved it. We used to take our children on picnics there.

Valley Forge 1978. Pregnant with our third child.

We left Valley Forge and headed to the college. Nothing looked familiar on the way over, and even the entrance to the school had changed. Many new buildings had been built since we left in 1980, and not much was recognizable. My husband’s little college had grown by leaps and bounds and had tripled in size in the thirty-two years we had been gone. We then plugged in our old address and drove out to West Chester to find our apartment. Without our GPS, we never would have found it at all. My husband had made the trip between the college and our apartment twice a day for two years, and he couldn’t find any landmark to guide him along the route. Would our old apartment even be there?

And then, we saw the sign and knew we had found the right place. But, as Thomas Wolfe wrote, “You can’t go home again.” Time had not been kind to our old abode. The grass was in need to cutting and everything needed painting. In general, it just looked run down. When we lived there, the apartments were filled with young families like us. Now they seemed populated by college kids from the nearby university. We found the address that had been ours, but it was hard to believe it was the same place we had once occupied with our three little ones.

We then drove into town, hoping it wasn’t as run down as our old home. We were pleasantly surprised to see that West Chester was actually even better than when we lived there. That sleepy little town we knew has become quite upscale with lots of shops and fine restaurants.

West Chester, Pennsylvania

All in all, our day of nostalgia was a mixed bag, but we returned to Philadelphia satisfied that we had accomplished what we set out to do. Memory Lane didn’t need to be visited again.

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About Coming East

I am a writer, wife, mother, and grandmother who thinks you're never too old until you're dead. My inspiration is Grandma Moses who became a successful artist in her late 70's. If I don't do something pretty soon, though, I'll have to find someone older for inspiration.
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31 Responses to If You’re Taking a Trip Down Memory Lane, Don’t Forget Your GPS

  1. tuesday2 says:

    Your husband worked at Valley Forge? My brother in law worked there for years… Doug D? Any chance you knew him or his wife, Sally D?

  2. Robin says:

    That last photo is right across the street from where M and I lived in West Chester. It’s a fabulous little town. 🙂

    • Coming East says:

      Wow, what a small world, Robin. We lived in West Chester from 1978-1980. It was a nice little town even back then, but it looks even nicer now. That’s not usually the way things go.

  3. You are beautiful, Coming East! Sorry I haven’t visited your site for a long (few months) time.

  4. We did memory lane last November… in your neck of the woods, actually. Norfolk had indeed grown up, and our apartments which were so wonderful then… we locked the doors while driving past. Love the post! DAF

  5. Amy says:

    Love these photos! I remember West Chester, it looks different now. I used to take my daughter to Valley Forge during the weekend, it was only a few miles from Paoli.

  6. A lovely post here on a trip down memory lane. Great photos – you were one good looking chick back in them days! 😉

  7. What a wonderful photo of you and your friends, although we can’t see their faces. I’m glad you had a wonderful day together. Interesting thing about those starting out years. They’re indelible. Then, raising the kids becomes a blur and then returning years later you don’t forget and pick up from where you left off. Yes, I imagine I would have to take my GPS to places where I have lived before.

  8. winsomebella says:

    Looks like a fun weekend of memories and reconnection 🙂

  9. Huffygirl says:

    West Chester looks like Chicago. and the picture of you looks like your Pajama Days daughter. Hope you had fun despite the Thomas Wolfian misgivings.

    • Coming East says:

      Really, HG? Parts of Chicago look like that? Hope I get to see those parts when we go next year. Nobody ever says I my daughter and I look anything alike, so that pleases me.

      • Huffygirl says:

        You’ll have to venture into some of the neighborhoods to see those parts, but yes, all the city neighborhoods look exactly like that picture above. My son has lived in Lincoln Park, Wicker Park and Lakeview – and every one had streets with shops, outdoor restaurants and apartments just like that one, even down to the little fences around the curb lawn flower gardens. Try Lincoln park – not that far from the Loop on the red line, and you can go to the zoo and the botanic garden for free.

      • Coming East says:

        We would be coming to Chicago in September, so the weather should be nice enough for me to explore, HG.

  10. pattisj says:

    I love to see old towns renovated!

  11. notquiteold says:

    West Chester looks beautiful and so do you.

  12. dorannrule says:

    What a beauty you were! I loved walking down memory lane with you too, even though looking back and looking now are never quite the same are they? A great post! Dor

  13. I have no doubt that it took a bit longer to commute from Valley Forge to West Chester than it did when George was making the trip daily! Sorry your old abode wasn’t what you anticipated, you are correct about West Chester… a beautiful and vibrant little town. That is where the “bedroom” communities of Philadelphia are reaching these days.

    • Coming East says:

      They’ve really moved quite away from the city, haven’t they, Carol! George commuted to Media, and we thought that was a long commute. West Chester reminds me now of West Hartford. Have you ever been there?

  14. I love your photo! You seen to have pregnancy swagger going on with that pose. Glad you got to see the changes and enjoy your stay. Something tells me your friends were saying the same about you two as far as the aging goes.

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