Home is a loaded word.
In my mind, when I see it or think it, I picture Rockwell’s “Freedom from Want”. The image of family is strong in the vision, and I wonder sometimes if this is what I have or what I want to have. Is it realistic or idealistic?
I am grateful to the Knoxes for flying me down to Mississippi this past weekend to play piano at their daughter, Kylie’s, wedding. If it weren’t for them, I likely wouldn’t have been back to Amory for a while. The ceremony was the primary reason for my visit, but whenever I have an opportunity to get down to see my family, I take it. I’ll admit that hasn’t always been the case.
When I was in college, I felt a gap growing between Mississippi and I. Standing on one side, the ideas, beliefs, culture, and assumptions began to feel foreign and uncomfortable. The gulf grew between myself and Mississippi the more life settled around me, and I began to distribute the blame for these feelings of melancholy.
Often I worried I would never again experience belonging to that place, and while I attempted to make Nashville my home, even there I felt somewhat out of place and set down awkwardly without resolve. I lost progress when my marriage ended, and suddenly Nashville began to take its place on the other side of the gap alongside Amory. I felt, due to my naivety, that I was somewhat other than those with which I grew up because I always wanted to be far from “home”. Now, I’m sure there isn’t much different about me at all.
All of us want to be unique and significant; when we accept that we are not special, extraordinary, or other, this acceptance makes it much easier to relate to those around us.
Collectively, we are great. Individually, we make up the whole.
When Marisa and I pulled up in the driveway, the humidity greeted us without hostility. “Take off your shoes and put on some sandals,” it said, and we listened. The hour was late, but I still wanted to visit. Mom and Dad were still awake when we arrived, and I was glad. I wanted them to meet this wonderful person with whom I’ve decided to share much of my time, and I wanted Marisa to experience a bit of what life was like growing up in a small town.
We hugged and talked, if only for a moment before we all decided to go to bed. Laying in the top bunk of my old bunk bed (Marisa and Alex, my brother’s girlfriend, slept in our separate rooms), I couldn’t help but think about the difference between now and the many times I’d traveled here before. Maybe it was the availability of central air conditioning I’ve missed in the city. Maybe it was the oddity of being an adult in a child’s bed. I didn’t know, but it was late; I fell asleep before finding the answer.
I awoke to the sound of my alarm bleating, warning me that time keeps moving even if I remain still. Hopping down from the loft, I snatched the crying device and shuffled into the living room. My mom, dad, brother, Alex and Marisa sat each in their own chair, talking as if they’d known each other for years. I rubbed my eyes and smiled. Everything was right in that moment.
The remainder of our stay was more of the same. Friends arrived along with grandparents and sweethearts. All brought along details of their lives and questions regarding my own. I gave them answers and told stories, laughing and singing songs, dancing and dining and feeling completely un-awkward in my own skin. And for the first time in my life, I knew I belonged to this place. All the misgivings and traps I’d set for myself from my cynicism and narcissism lay rotting in the past. They’d fallen, much like the blueberries that litter the ground beneath the bushes behind my childhood home. It is still mine, the dry-county in my heart. I don’t think I ever loved it before, and I admit that I’ve taken it for granted.
It’s easy to romanticize a place, much like many, myself included, romanticize New York City. You can think about summer and forget that winter exists. Death can elude the mind of the living. The poor can fall from the sight of the rich.
The difficulty is in accepting a thing for what it is and knowing that this is truly what you’ve done. I believe that real love can do this. Real love; not the stuff of emotion or feeling but in the choosing.
You can’t choose where you grow up, but you can choose your home the same way you can choose a person with which to share your life, in spite of all their flaws and imperfections.
It’s your choice that makes the difference.