The following Quarantine Story was submitted by Tom Meredith in exile at Tel Hai, April 20, 2020:
Those little communities hunkered down in the hills around Lake Conewago couldn’t really have “called me home” could they? It was 1983 and Marie and I were thinking that soon retirement could get us out of New Jersey, maybe to the Poconos. After all, we were Pennsylvanians.
I had had one visit to Gretna, back in 1931 or ’32 – a weekend visit in a Campmeeting cottage where an elderly great-aunt Sunday School teacher was recharging herself at the annual Summer Assembly. I was eleven and it rained, and not even my father seemed to be enjoying himself – it was his family we were visiting. It rained and the roof leaked and the bedrooms had no ceilings – the walls were only eight feet high. To my intense relief, Sunday afternoon finally came, we went home to Maryland, and I resumed my childhood.
Then came the lurching removal from Maryland back to Pennsylvania. My adjustment from a high school class of 28 to one of more than 800 (not counting faculty) was unsettling, but in the end it brought me Marie, and over the years of dating and marriage I sometimes talked of a rainy weekend in Mt. Gretna and she frequently talked about Rhododen, the family cottage on Yale Avenue, and about a Mt. Gretna friend named Ann Hark.
There was a war in there somewhere, and more years of readjusting than I care to remember, and then there came a day when, from the publisher’s discard table I picked up a book by Ann Hark, took it home to Marie and learned that the author was indeed the Ann Hark of her Mt. Gretna memories. Not much more was made of this until the early 1980s. We had stumbled badly in our search for a retirement place – sold our Pocono lot, but couldn’t forget the smell of the pine woods. Was Mt. Gretna anything like what Marie remembered? Several purposeful visits established that it was, and after Mike Hill explained that Rhododen had been renamed and was not for sale, we found a house on Timber Road and moved into it in 1985.
This was the twelfth house I had lived in, and by the time I got to the eighth or ninth I had given up on any idea of permanency in the concept of “home.” A “Welcome” pamphlet from the local church we had just visited, brought to us by Larry Hall, listed a Rev. J. R. Meredith among the Campmeeting founders. Assured by my father that Rev. Meredith was indeed my great-grandfather, I began to explore his story and the story of the church and Campmeeting. And the more I explored, the more “at home” I came to feel.
Generations of relatives from a century ago began taking on life; Marie’s stories and my discoveries teased me into thinking that “permanent” could again be connected to “home,” at least here in Gretna. It became truly a permanent home for Marie (she died in April, 2010), but not for me, although I still claim it as “home” whenever anyone asks.
in exile at Tel Hai
20 Apr 2020