Everyone needs a “safe place.”

When I was a child, my “safe place” was on my mother’s lap. That was the place to be when my sister, Linda, threatened to bean me for poking the eye out of her doll; when my friend across the alley stole my toy car; when Audrey’s cat clawed me on the leg.

I could be a bit of a pain to my sister, to the kid across the alley and to our neighbor’s cat — but having a “safe place” didn’t depend upon my guilt or innocence. Mom’s lap was equally available on days when I was a devil and days when I was almost an angel. Her lap offered no judgments, only comfort.

I thought of that “safe place” recently on an autumn drive around Hope.

I had driven over from my home in Columbus to join friend David Webster for lunch at the Snappy Tomato and catch up on some of our mutual interests. I arrived early and found myself “time-traveling” a bit — down streets I have known since birth, past the homes of long-gone residents who still live in my mind, and under a red, yellow and green canopy of fall color.

My month had been filled with the usual stresses — deadlines and demands, all encased in an unavoidable barrage of upsetting news reports — topped by the slaughter of 11 Jewish worshippers by a twisted bigot at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

The streets were nearly deserted that mid-day Monday. Except for a brief whirring sound as I passed the sawmill a block from the home where I was born and a barking dog somewhere on Aiken Street, all was quiet.

At the corner of Jackson and Robbins streets a small, white chicken wandered around the front yard of a home, apparently free to enjoy the day as she pleased. At the stop sign at Jackson and Walnut, I looked left to see no cars, only a black and white cat taking a nap in the middle of the street.

Realistically, I know the Town of Hope is not some idyllic haven with no troubles and no challenges and no worries — where chickens or cats or people spend every day safe and carefree in the beauty of autumn colors. But on this late-October day, the town was my “safe place.” It was my mother’s lap — my roots, the place in my mind that gives me peace now and then, just because it is there.

We all need a “safe place.” I am glad the Town of Hope is mine — not just because of the memories my brain often sees only through rose-colored glasses, but because of the warmth I feel from so many present-day residents — both long-time and more recent friends — when I am in town.

Among the highest honors in my life was being selected as this year’s Heritage Days parade Grand Marshal. A few days earlier I had been overwhelmed by the turnout at my “Old Soldier” performance, a fundraiser for HSJ Online, at WILLow LeaVes restaurant. More than $4,000 was raised.

My gratitude and the thanks of the entire HSJ Online board of directors go out to all contributors.

Likewise, no adequate thank you is possible for my selection by the the community through Heritage of Hope, Inc., as Grand Marshal. Thank you, Hope, for embracing me through the years — when I may have deserved a hug and many times when I didn’t — and being my “safe place.”

One of the highest unearned honors of my life was to be born and raised in Hope, Indiana.