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Empty lot prompts wishes for peace

After nine months of getting lost in Andalusia, I decided to broaden my horizons and get lost in Florala. It was a little harder, but no less revealing. At first, I seemed to be coasting through a Norman Rockwell town, with its beautiful Victorian homes and family cafes. Then it became more realistic, as I saw the empty buildings, the vacant homes. There were children playing, old folks sunning themselves on a porch, fisherman taking advantage of the warm spring weather by venturing onto Lake Jackson.

It was a slice of Americana as pure as it could be, from the corny to

poignant.

At one point, I really did get lost, overshooting the turn off to Highway 331 (and lottery tickets) and I passed a single brick building. It seemed abandoned, with

weeds rising raggedly above the lawn, no cars in the parking lot.

It was the Florala National Guard.

I realize that those who usually mow the lawn there were probably right behind me, but at the time it seemed so desolate, so forlorn

and yet, my reaction was it should always be like this. Not because our soldiers and guardsmen should always be off somewhere else, fighting and dying, but because there shouldn't be a need for such things as soldiers and guns.

We have a tendency to long for the "good ole days" – which we tend to see through filters of forgiveness and forgetfulness, but I can't help but remember my own childhood, when at the age of 10, my friends and I terrorized the nighborhood on our ponies, and ran, unchecked, from dawn until dusks. I can remember when the most scandalous things on television were the outfits the dancers wore on the Jackie Gleason Show, and when we played "war" or "cops and robbers," the only weapons we used her our fingers and shouts of "Bam! Bam!"

Yes, some of us did have a Mayberry background, and as much as I would like to go back to that, it's never going to happen. The only direction to move is forward, taking the best part of yesterday with us.

I want us to move forward into a world without war, but like that rose-tinted past, it is not likely. The only way to move forward is in safety, for that safey, I thank those who left the building behind in its weed-covered lot, a soft but sure promise of better days to come.

Mary Reeves is the Neighbors editor and a columnist for the Star-News.