There is a place. A place where the grass grows high and people still open doors while gently tapping the brim of their hat as if to say, “welcome home, we've missed you.” A place where you can sit for hours on a front porch while catching up with an old friend over a bottle of Sun Drop. This place, it still exists. Its called home. My home. My small southern town that I can visit in my dreams and once in a while in reality. This place where people stop my kids on the street and say, "With that face, I know exactly who your mama is." This place where people remember who you were at 12 and at 19. And this place welcomes your children now, with wide open arms along with a side of Jasmine and fresh cut grass. Old timers bend down to eye level with your eight year old and speak memories of your youth, moments that wash over you like a flood while saying, "I knew your mama when she was knee high to a grasshopper."
This place will always welcome and love you...if you let it. Of course, there are those among us that left, long ago, never to look back, never to return. How sad, I think. How tragic. So much to be learned from this place and the people there. So much to still discover about ourselves and share with our children.
You've never tried a slawburger, my child, you must. And you watch as your child looks at your with trusting yet worried eyes as they take the tiny bite from your hands. You wait. "That's not bad," they say. You smile. She will be one too. She will be one of us one day.
This place where we galloped through the river and floated the mighty elk with friends on a cool fall Saturday morning. I had my first job here, went on my first date here. Its apart of me, and I am apart of it.It will always be in my soul no matter where life leads. I can't run from it, nor do I wish to.
I can always come home.
I can always return.
I can show my children where my favorite dog is buried and the tree I used to climb with a book when I wanted to be alone. "That's where mom went to elementary school!" I yell as we drive past Highland Rim. I can still smell the halls and taste the pizza. "Cool", they respond, dazing out a window, not sure yet what this all means. How much this all means.
Home. A place where we spend our youth running from it and our adulthood trying to recreate it. “That's where my grandparents lived, I say as I point to a house I no longer recognize that has been renovated and changed as I try to make sense out of a stranger having the power to change my past and my present.
Home. It's still there, you know. Waiting for you and waiting for your children too. The old man whittling away wood on the courthouse steps, he is still there. He's your dad's age now. Weird, huh?
The pool room and Ken's fast food, still there filled with young girls learning the ropes and gaining some front house experience all while giving you a smile with a "Have a nice day!" in their soft, southern drawl as they deliver your order. Your friends, the ones you bump into unexpectedly then can't wait to tell you mom about. "You won't believe who I saw today.." You forgot how much old friends meant. How much they still mean. They don't know the 40 year old version of you. They know the 19 year old version and that's how they still see you, how you still see each other. You quickly chat about a great moment, mis-spent youth, telling stories where you barely got away with it! "We almost died that night!" And together you will laugh and say things like "please come see me!" or "I will call you when I am in town," and you both know you are lying. But it doesn't matter. This moment in front of Gerald's Foodland was enough. Each time you've returned home those quick, surprise conversations have always been enough.
And your kids gaze up at you ever so confused. "Who was that mama?" "Oh, just someone I used to know very well, baby." And you continue grabbing items for the family cookout, wishing you had realized those were the good 'ol days when you were actually living them and smiling at the memories that have been resurrected even for just three minutes. It was worth the ten hour drive home.
Home is a place I will always love and want to visit, to take my children on my adventures and to share in my childhood. I will never forsake it or take it for granted. It’s there for you and me. It's always been there and if we are lucky, this place we call home will continue to be there for us and for generations to come.
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