After a leave of nearly 50 years away from my boyhood hometown of Hamilton, Alabama, I recently got an unusual urge to return for a visit.
I discussed it with my wife, Kathy, and she agreed that I should do it or I might be sorry later.
My dad had four brothers and two sisters that spent their lives in and around Hamilton, raising their families and farming the rich soil of Alabama.
Our family lived near two of the uncles, so all the cousins went to school together or socialized often. One cousin in particular was the go-to person if you needed to get anything done. So my cousin, Rachel Channell, was the first one I considered as I was making my plans to go home.
I called Rachel and told her about my plan; she became excited. She said she would contact all our first cousins and plan an ‘Eddie’ homecoming dinner.
I suggested it’d be nice if we also included second cousins because I would like to meet them. She seemed a little hesitant, perhaps because of the cost. I asked her if Hamilton were still a ‘dry’ town; she answered that it was. She jokingly told me the favorite local drink was sweet tea. I told her to invite all the seconds and that I would get a day job if necessary.
The Hamilton trip was a God-given experience I’ll never forget. It gave me a deeper understanding of who I am and what I came from. It would have been wonderful if my two children could have shared the experience with me.
As I was giving thanks on Thanksgiving, I wondered who I would be today had my father not died when I was 11 years old. Maybe a farmer in Hamilton?
We’re in the midst of the holidays. Thanksgiving just flew by and Christmas is fast approaching. These two holidays are the most meaningful of all the holidays for me. The season gives me a chance to seriously slow down and reflect on how much I’ve been blessed: Family, friends, loved ones and Naperville are first come to mind.
An age-old cliche goes, “I’m the luckiest person in the world.”
I wish I would have penned that sentence because I truly believe it reflects my life.
Merry Christmas to everyone who has touched my life. You are one of my blessings.
Editor’s Note: Ed Channell has served on many boards, foundations and fundraising campaigns during his 50-plus years in Naperville. We first worked with Ed on the Riverwalk 2000 fundraising campaign, then the Fredenhagen Park fundraising campaign, two hugely successful initiatives that he co-chaired back in the mid-1990s to enhance our city’s natural treasure in the heart of downtown Naperville.
Ed says now that he’s contributed columns to Positively Naperville every month for a decade, he’s hanging up his hat. We’ve appreciated Ed’s wit, orneriness, big heart and yearning for feedback. We know he’s waiting to hear from readers. We wish him much happiness in his retirement, though he promises it’s not over ’til it’s over. Who said that?