Story by Lisa Strecker
Photos by Martha Layton Smith
I cannot believe how long it's taken for me to get back here. Part of it is the organized side of me, that was waiting for some pictures from a friend so that I could blog in chronological order. And part of it was that I just wasn't ready to blog about this.
In July I had the great opportunity to spend a day with a couple of friends and attend More on 34. This is a 100-mile garage sale spanning from Sandwich to Galesburg, IL. It was a superbly adventurous & emotional day for me. Never thought when I woke up that morning that as we took that journey, I would begin a conversation about my journey through life as we wound through the rural roads of Illinois.
And we finally had to set a 15-minute limit to each stop because Miss Martha was very contented to peruse...but we wanted to make some headway! We met so many fabulous and hysterical people... Like these gentlmen shown here, who were a little worse for drink...
We found a fabulous local city hall that had the best barbeque and crock pot sweet onions... a fantastic barn sale with some of the coolest fixtures we had ever seen and all along the way, somehow we got started on my life's story. Now I knew we may eventually end up in Princeton, IL. This is where I spent my high school years. After coming from a severely broken home and being placed in a children's home - Lydia's at the age of 10. A brief stint at a relative's house which simply did not work out, and then ending up living in a group home in Princeton, IL - Covenant Children's Home. So we just fell into this conversation about my entire childhood throughout our journey. It was emotional... it was personal, but it felt right.
As the day progressed, we were heading into a storm. So here I am white knuckled and nervous, being urged on by my fellow adventurers to press on. A few days later, I learned we did indeed drive through tornados!
I was superbly happy that we had made it through. And low and behold right before my eyes, we end up in Princeton! As we drove past the children's home, I felt the tears just well up (kind of like right now) and by this time I was speaking about how my husband and I had met. We were so young, I in my senior year of highschool, he was in college on the military delayed entry program - and he was my math tutor through the high school in order to earn a little extra money. The irony of it all is that he too came from a broken home and had lived at both of the same places I did, but at a different time, so our paths had never crossed.
|original buildings ca. 1921|
It felt to me almost as if I was meant to take this journey that day... verbally...emotionally & socially. It was, incredibly powerful. And I cannot think of two more loving & patient people who cared and listened as I poured out the history of my 46 years of life. Unspeakable emotion.
So, now to lighten things up a bit. We had just gotten through this storm...we were tired, we were hungry & we found one of my favorite places to go for pie & coffee!
The Coffee Cup brings back some fond memories for me. Growing up in Princeton, my husband had met a nice large big Greek family - the Lymberopoulos clan. The dad had been deeply in love with his wife & had 8 children (I believe) with her & lost her in childbirth. This crazy guy...Panos, managed to raise the most awesome group of people to ever grace this earth all on his own. On top of it, he kinda adopted my husband into his family as he was close to his sons and by the time I met my husband, he adopted me too!
Once my husband went off to basic training, Panos would call me every week or so and say "let's go for a coffee." We either went to Stuckey's at the end of town or the Coffee Cup. He'd take my car "for a ride" and always made sure it was tuned up, gassed & that I had a good meal whenever I saw him. You could see Panos often riding down Main St. on his bicycle and in later years on his moped. A well-known, beloved man by many. He is truly missed.
Okay so I got a little emotional again. Back to the lighter note! It was late in the day, but there were some fabulous little shops on Main St. and around the corner.
and the sweetest, never-ending antiques shoppe...
But the best find of all was a well-established gift & coffee shoppe - Beetz Me!
This is a fully-restored ca. 1800's hardware store which had been lovingly brought back to life by Proprietor, Laura Maxwell-Massey. A true "gem" of Princeton. So many fabulous things to purchase & Laura is a lovely and very friendly woman. Things do come full circle, as my good fortune would have it, I will be doing a trunk show in her store in a few weeks on November 6th. It was no coincidence in my opinion that we ended up meeting and I am so looking forward to "coming home" so to speak, & sharing my art with all of her lovely patrons.
Last but not least, we certainly could not leave Princeton without visiting the Red Covered Bridge.
|Bureau County Red Covered Bridge - ca. 1863|
As crazy teenagers, we spent alot of time on the bridge, jumping into Bureau County Creek & generally goofing off. Ah, good times...good times.
We had a fabulous journey home....
And as you can see, Martha ended up with the lion's share of the vintage booty!
In closing I'd like to say I know it took me a long time to get here & write this. It brings up alot of memories - sad & happy alike. But I am so grateful that this day & that time spent with Martha & Valerie afforded me the opportunity to share and make a beautiful memory together.