Looking for a Bluebell moment

Published 2:08 pm Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The commercial shows three gray-haired folks sitting on the front porch of an abandoned country house. They are laughing and eating Bluebell Homemade ice cream (they obviously shot this before they discovered there was a chance eating the stuff might make you sick.)

The three are siblings returning to the old home place of their childhood. I guess eating ice cream on that porch is one of their memories. Where they bought the Bluebell in the middle of nowhere and how they managed to keep it from melting in the hot summer sun is a mystery.

Anyway, this isn’t about ice cream miraculously staying frozen. I thought about the commercial because my father-in-law and his sisters kind of recreated the experience last week.

They took a trip to their home place just outside of Brewton, returning to where they grew up. It was something they wanted to do for a while.

I talked to him when he got home and asked if things looked anything like they did years ago. He said it was hard to find much from their days as kids.

“We couldn’t see much we recognized,” he said. “We could kind of see where the old store was but there is a big fine house sitting there now.”

Even if they didn’t have a Bluebell-on-the-porch moment, he said they enjoyed going back to a place that holds so many memories. I felt a little sad that most of what they knew was gone.

This came to mind again Saturday as I drove through Opp on my way to my mother’s house. As I turned onto Covington Avenue, I passed familiar buildings. Some of them are empty, several are beauty shops and the drive-thru at the bank fills the spot where my favorite place, the dime store, once sat.

A jewelry store on the corner may be the only business that operated when I was a child and is still going strong. I tried to identify which building housed the Royal Theater and which one was home to Zeb’s Cake House.

I took a left onto College Street, looking to the spot behind the First Methodist Church and saw the park is a parking lot now. There is a smaller park further down the street, but it’s nothing like the one I remember.

A right turn took me to East Park Avenue, my neighborhood. As I passed houses, I named the people who lived there years ago. There was the house where Mrs. Benton, my third grade teacher lived, and the one on the corner that was Dr. Lee’s house.

I think a friend lives in her childhood home; it is beside Dr. Lee’s. Reaching the block where my mother lives, I saw houses we called, “first Page and second Page” because that was the last name of the families who lived there.

And then I spotted my house sitting on the corner. The old evergreen tree that was a grand spot for a tea party with my doll family stands tall in the front yard.

The back yard looks different with a carport and a paved driveway where there was once a swing set and patches of green grass. A storage building sits in the place our playhouse once claimed and the leaning catalpa tree we climbed near the alley is gone.

Still, for all the things that are different, the feel of my hometown is the same. Unlike my father-in-law’s experience, I can find landmarks that look a lot like they did years ago.

I know they say you cannot go home again, and I guess it is true you can’t expect change not to happen. It is, however, nice to see reminders of the places and people who played a part in taking me from girlhood to grownup.

Now, if I had a bowl of Homemade Bluebell ice cream to eat while I sit on the front steps of that East Park Avenue house, this trip down memory lane would be perfect.

Nancy Blackmon is a writer and yoga teacher.