I grew up in a small town. Well, you really couldn’t even call it a small town, I guess, unless deer and bobcats and crickets can be counted as neighbors. More country than town. Where I grew up made Mayberry seem like a bustling metropolis.
Our nearest neighbors were my grandparents on my father’s side. When I was about 3, I learned a shortcut through the woods to get there. Even with the shortcut, it was still a 20 minute walk through fairly dense woods, and I had to jump over logs and climb over barbed wire fences to get there, but the trip was always well worth it, because all the magic of my childhood lived at my grandparents’ farm house: warm cookies and milk; books everywhere; creaking floorboards; ghost stories; a dusty attic full of mysterious treasures; hand-churned strawberry ice cream; fried chicken cooked in bacon grease; the overpowering smell of wisteria; fireflies on summer nights; rocking gently on the front porch swing, drinking sweet iced tea and feeling the summer breeze on my face.
But, when I became a teenager, I suddenly couldn’t wait to leave home. I wanted to get out into the real world, where I was convinced that excitement and enlightenment waited. I skipped 9th grade to hasten the process and made sure to obtain academic scholarships so that my ticket out of the boonies was guaranteed. I’d just turned 17 when I left home forever, convinced that there was much more to life than could be found in the rural South.
And I never went back home…at least not to stay. In the many years I have been gone, I have only returned for holidays and family events, only to quickly hightail it out of there as soon as possible to get back to my “real life” in whatever city I was living in at the time.
The simple truth that I have realized over the years is: the main reason I avoid going home is because it makes me sad. When I go back, I feel a yearning for something I cannot put into words; a nostalgia for the simple, pure happiness I knew as a child.
When my father died, my mother moved to an apartment to be near me. I began renting my childhood home to provide a bit of income for her. After a few rental horror stories, we finally found the perfect renter, who has been there for the last decade.
Until now. I just learned that the perfect renter will be moving out at the end of August, and now I have to decide what to do with my childhood home and the 80 wooded acres it sits on.
Of course, I could rent it again and I have already had inquiries, but being a landlord long distance is often a lot of trouble, because things break and I am not there to fix them. Not to mention the considerable headache of finding a good renter.
The obvious solution is to sell it. It makes a lot of sense to do so, both logistically and financially. I am living 700 miles away now and, of course, the money would certainly come in handy.
So: why do I feel like crying at the very thought of selling a house which I have not lived in for many more years than I did live in it? Why do I find myself dilly-dallying about; procrastinating whenever I even think of making the necessary arrangements to go prepare the house for sale? Why do I get tears in my eyes just thinking about someone cutting down even one of my Dad’s precious trees which he cared for so diligently? Why do I still dream of being in the cool, dark woods, the silence only broken by the leaves crunching beneath my feet and the occasional bird call?
My spouse, partner, and all-around sweetiepie, Dirt, says that the decision is mine: she says we can move back there if I want. She is willing to uproot herself from her work, friends, and family to support me if I decide I want to move back there. Her unconditional love and willingness to do whatever makes me happy means more to me than I can possibly ever fully express.
So now I am torn, stuck between wanting to hold on to a place that made me happy and staying in a place that makes me happy now.
I don’t know the answer yet, but I will. And whatever happens, I know everything will work out, because my true home is not a place…my true home is a person.