There’s no place like home…

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.

Mine, too.

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.


You can’t go home again (12/3/2014)

Dear old Thomas Wolfe may have been right when he wrote, “You can’t go home again” back in the 1940s.

Or maybe he just lived in an area much like the one I grew up near, that had gone from a charming, eclectic college town to a bustling metropolitan city with new roads and different exits.

OK, maybe saying Athens is a bustling metro area is pushing it, but when your biggest traffic jam involves a cow and some bossy strutting chickens, anything with more than two lanes seems metropolitan. It’s just a lot different than what I have been acclimated to the last several years.

“Do you know where this is?” Lamar will ask me anytime we are homeward bound to see Mama.

“Of course I do,” is my reply.

He will pause and study me for a moment.

“Do you know how to get there?”

“I just said I did.”

“No, you said you know where it is. Where it is and how to get there are two different things.”

Said the man who thinks Mapquest is out to get him lost on purpose.

This conversation arose Thanksgiving morning as we were preparing to go to Mama’s. I wasn’t quite sure how to get to the place to pick up the dinner and was trying to figure it out.

But, I wasn’t going to tell Lamar that. Surely I could figure it out.

Just in case, I called and got directions. But what the woman told me confused the dressing out of me.

“I take Timothy Road?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said. “To Epps Bridge.”

“Is this down there near St. Mary’s and where the old Trump’s used to be?” One of my proms was at Trump’s. Or was it a debutante ball? I couldn’t remember – it was getting as foggy as me remembering where roads were.

“I don’t know about that,” the lady said.

“I turn between the Taco Bell and the liquor store, right? Like I am heading to the old dollar movie theater?”

The lady sighed. “I am going to tell you one more time,” she had already told me twice. “You turn right on Timothy Road, at the light at Publix.”

We left early and were making good time. I felt about 99.99 percent sure I could get us to our destination without any complications or without letting on that I was not real sure where we were going.

And we did. We got there just fine. It was when I decided to take navigation into my own hands.

“I think if we turn out of the parking lot and keep going, we will hit a road near Mama’s and will get there quicker.”

Lamar eyed me. He was getting hungry and wasn’t entirely sure he believed me. “You know how to get there from here?”

I nodded.

More of the stankeye look. “How come a few minutes ago, you were all ‘Oh, I have never seen this before,’ and “this wasn’t here?”

“Well, I am pretty sure this will take us into Oconee County and I can find Mama’s road. It will save us about 20 minutes.”

Lamar knew how famous I was for my shortcuts. Once, when I was taking Cole to see Mama, I took a ‘shortcut.’ Two hours later and a trip through Gwinnett County and a few drive-thru’s, my little fried chickentarian and I finally arrived.

“You know what’s the quickest way somewhere?” Lamar asked.

“A straight line?”

“Nope, the one you know.”

But, it was Thanksgiving and he didn’t want to fuss, so he turned right out of that parking lot and away we went.

And lost we got.

“Where are we?” he asked.

I wasn’t sure. Why did we just cross into Barrow County? That was on the other side…

“You don’t know do you?”

“I think if we go a little bit further…”

Lamar shook his head. “No, we are turning around. We could have been there by now.” And eating turkey. I was hungry, too. Why did he put the food in the trunk? How am I supposed to eat a bite if it’s in the trunk?

We turned around and came up on another road pointing towards Bogart. “You know Bogart, don’t you?”

I said I did, but apparently, I don’t.

It hadn’t changed much but I didn’t remember anything. We came to the red light – probably still the only red light in Bogart. I didn’t know which way to turn. Lamar went right and pulled into a gas station to ask directions.

Yes, that’s right – a man stopped to ask directions. You make those gender sacrifices when you are married to me.

Thankfully, the man he asked was able to tell us which way to go and a few moments later, we were at that Pepsi plant, turning onto 78.

Mama was worried. I had told her we would be there in 15 minutes; that was 30 minutes before. “We are so lost, so lost,” I texted back.

When we finally arrived, Mama wanted to know how in the world we got so turned around. Or, more specifically, how does one get lost in Bogart?

“I don’t even know how I ended up in Bogart,” I said. “We were on one side of Athens, over there going towards downtown and I ended up in Bogart – how did that even happen?”

“Did you go over a bridge?” Mama asked. “Or cross 78 and not realize it?”

“No, Mama, I didn’t do any of that. There was stuff I have never seen, there’s stores, roads even – they have moved roads. I don’t remember Timothy or Epps Bridge being there. They have just moved the roads.” I was so confused my brain hurt. And I sorely wished I had gotten that chocolate pecan pie after all.

“Well, you know what I think happened?” Mama began, patting my shoulder. “You just don’t come home enough to know what’s changed and what hasn’t. If you came home more, you wouldn’t be so lost.”

And maybe she meant that in more ways than one.