May 22, 2014

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Oh Shenandoah, I long to see you! ~ traditional American folk song

The first time I ever visited Lexington, VA was in the fall of 1973, to visit Joel, who was a freshman at W&L. I fell in love with this historic college town, steeped in history and surrounded by the natural beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, rolling hills and rushing rivers.

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Who would have ever guessed that 38 years later, our daughter would move to Lexington for 3 years while her husband went to W&L Law School! Over the preceding years, Joel and I had gone back for his class reunions every 5 years, which were always fun, but having our daughter there meant extra visits, usually twice a year. So we’ve visited Lexington often lately and have fallen in love with it again, and even more so.

One of the things I love about Lexington is its timelessness. The historic downtown district looks virtually identical to the way it looked 38 years ago. Sure, some of the various shops and restaurants have come and gone (although a few are still there from the time of my first visit), but the buildings in which they do business are the same ones that have been there for decades, or even centuries.


For instance, in the 1970’s, there used to be a place we called “Duck’s”, which was a hamburger joint, where the W&L guys (no women at W&L until the 1980’s) could go grab some lunch, get a late night meal or a beer and charge it to their parents’ account. It became a B&B at some point, and we even stayed in a room that we think used to be Duck’s kitchen. Now that entire building is being refurbished to be an upscale hotel/restaurant. I wonder what Mr. and Mrs. Duck would think about that!

Going back to Lexington always evokes memories of those carefree days prior to graduation, when we were “young, foolish and happy”. I can shut my eyes, inhale the scent of the boxwoods and go back in time. It’s always such a shock to realize how many years have passed since those long ago days.

Back to the present, it’s been great fun to experience today’s Lexington through the eyes of our daughter and son in law. They don’t have the memories that we do, but they are making their own, with the places they go and the things they like to do. They’ve been living in a lovely home across US 64 from Liberty Hall, close enough that Kat can walk over to the law school. Shannon works for ODK, in the old train station, less than a half mile from their house. And we found a favorite cabin where we love to stay, just outside of town.

Kat graduated earlier this month, and while it was a happy occasion, it means that they will soon be leaving Lexington and heading back to Houston where he has a great job lined up. But it also means that we won’t be traveling up to Lexington as often, and will miss having them there, next time we do!

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Throughout the graduation weekend, I kept looking around to savor my favorite things about Lexington, knowing I wouldn’t be back for years. It was a bittersweet time, and on that last day when we said farewell to “our” cabin, I was terribly sad. Later on, while sitting on Shannon and Kat’s front porch, just enjoying the breeze, watching the birds, deer and rabbits, I couldn’t help but feel poignant about this generational shift.


The next time I am in Lexington will be for Joel’s 40th reunion in 2017. But Shannon and Kat won’t be there anymore. I know they will be in Houston, and I will see them often, but it will be different not having them there in Lexington in their precious house where we can hang out on the front porch, or meet them at the Red Hen or wander down Main Street together.

All these thoughts competed with each other the entire weekend, and I’ve got to say, I was very emotional as we left them. Joel admitted that he was, as well. Lexington will do that to all who love her.

And we do, times four.