I have been a bit homesick lately.
Not just for the home I grew up in, but for a place in general.
It’s hard to explain.
I feel this yearning for home, but I am just quite sure where ‘home’ is.
I think the actual word is hiraeth, a Welsh word meaning a homesickness that can’t be translated. Whatever it is, I have felt it.
There’s the town I grew up in, just outside of Athens. A small, sleepy bedroom community that has blossomed over the years to a place proud of its roots and traditions as it reaches towards the future.
I spent the first 25 years of my life fighting like mad to get out of that town, only to have spent the better part of the last 15 trying fervently to get back.
I miss it.
I miss my family that lives there.
I miss the friends I have known since I was just a few years old, and all the memories we made.
And I miss my home.
There was nothing fancy about the home I grew up in, nothing remarkable.
It was a simple brick house that my grandfather turned into a duplex, for lack of a better explanation, for my Mama and I so they could help take care of me.
It didn’t have anything special about it like the homes of my friends. No huge closets, no basement where people could gather, not even a bathroom with a garden tub.
It was pretty boring and something I was not exactly proud of growing up because it was not as nice as my friends.
But there was something special about it. Something that made me feel safe and secure.
I can remember how the screen door would slam shut behind me when I would enter through the door on Granny’s side of the house. I can still smell the aroma of fried chicken and biscuits wafting from the kitchen or the welcomed scent of her homemade chocolate pound cake.
I can hear a Georgia game blaring from the den as my grandfather and uncle watched the game, can hear the swear words shaking the walls when we lost.
I can feel needles lost in couch cushions, still threaded as they find flesh through blue jeans when I sit down. I can see fabric strewn carefully about as Granny worked on yet another quilt.
I can see Mama’s favorite spot on the couch, where she would sit and do her crosswords, her home decorating magazines taking up precious coffee table real estate where her Diet Coke should have sat. Cats would appear briefly, only to scatter, as peering eyes would be spotted from around doors.
I can hear Mama complaining about the horrendous red, black and gold shag carpet that screamed the 70s. Even though it was beyond tacky, it was familiar and part of the mélange of home.
But that home is not even there anymore, sold with the accompanying land several years and in the process of a future development, torn down.
A lifelong friend told me she was looking for it as she and her husband drove to Athens and when she came upon the empty clearing, she burst into tears.
“So many of my childhood memories were there,” she wrote me.
I have dreamed of that house, many, many times. Dreamed I have been back in there, talking to my family. Dreamed I was walking in the door, pulling down the drive way, or standing in the kitchen.
I told another friend this one day, saying wistfully I wasn’t sure why I dream about that place so much.
“Because home means more than just a house,” she said. “It is often where we feel safe and secure. Maybe that is why you dream about it? Did you feel safe there?”
I sure did. I was safe and loved and nurtured. I haven’t had that since I left.
And yet, it was something I refused to go back to when life fell apart.
Instead, I stayed in the other town I yearn for, the other place that feels like a home of sorts in my heart.
A place where I learned a lot about myself and for the first time, stood on my own two feet. I had to learn how to survive, even though I failed horribly.
In a lot of ways, it was the place I did my second growing up.
My child was born there.
A lot of the friends I made as an adult were there.
Some of the biggest leaps of faith were made there.
Some big mistakes were made there, too, but I’d like to believe the leaps of faith kind of made up for them.
But, it is not a place I visit very often. It involves going through Atlanta to get there and traffic causes me to have horrible panic attacks.
It is still a place I yearn for and get little pangs of nostalgia for from time to time.
I left that place and somehow, ended up in the mountains.
I love it here, I do; but that doesn’t negate the yearnings I have.
I asked Cole if here or anywhere near here had ever felt like home. He has grown up here and it is really the only place he has ever known. But did it feel like home in his heart?
He thought about my question, looking out the window at the passing scenery as we drove.
He was quite reflective in his response.
“I have always felt like where ever you and Dad are is home,” he began. “Where ever we are with our loved ones is home. It’s not a place or a building really; it’s more about family.”
And maybe that’s what I have felt along.
Not a connection to a home or a town but one that goes deeper to the soul.