Short essay on the meaning of "hometown" - where we grew up as children is the home of our soul and childhood memories.
By the time you read this, I'll be back in Maine, the state where I was born and called home for much of my life. I'm not permanently moving out of South Carolina, although I can certainly understand the secret and sometimes not so secret wish of those southerners who would like to see we northerners pack up and head back from whence we came. I honestly don't blame them. Had I been born and raised in the south, I would probably feel the same way. And yet, to those southerners who wish us good riddance, sorry, I'm not leaving. I know a good thing when I've found it, and while my love for this state may not ever equal that of the natives, I cherish it still. I've been captivated by its scenic vistas, its magical and magnificent awakening at spring time, its diversity of both its landscapes and its people, and by its rich cultural heritage. I have never for a moment taken any of its gifts for granted, and I never will.
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And yet, there is this call homeward, this yearning for utterly familiar places and faces, for the sense of absolute belonging and security that I have yet to feel anywhere else. It was Thomas Wolfe, the renowned southern author who perhaps captured this longing best for me when he wrote, "In every man there are two hemispheres of light and dark, two worlds discrete, two countries of his soul's adventure. And one of these is the dark land, the other half of his heart's home, the unvisited domain of his father's earth." While South Carolina is my warm and sunny land of light and of adventure, it is my father's earth that has been calling to me; the land where he was born and raised his children, the land that he loved, and that I dreamed of leaving, my dark land, and his soul's home.
It was also Thomas Wolfe who observed that we can't go home again. His words ring true in my case, I can't. The house that I grew up in will be sold this summer and its doors once and for all will be closed to me. My parents and sister followed me southward, my grandparents are deceased, and a number of my closest friends from childhood have moved away. Many of the buildings I remember, although smaller than I recall, are still standing, but they no longer house the shops we used to frequent, and few of the faces I encountered on the streets were familiar ones the last time I visited.
I left Maine when I was seventeen in search of what Wolfe described as "a land more kind than home." I believe that I have finally found this land here in the south, a place that feels gentler, if not kinder, one that I have settled into and appreciate; the place my father's grandchildren now call home.
I'll be spending the summer and early autumn in a small town in central Maine, not the place that I grew up in, but one that resembles it closely enough to introduce my daughter to a world that bares some resemblance to the one where I was raised. I want to share with her some of those blessings I left behind, to spend some time with people who share many of my childhood memories, and I want to answer an age old and inexplicable call from home.
I'll write once I'm settled in.
Staff, H. (2008, October 23). Home Words, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, June 3 from https://www.healthyplace.com/alternative-mental-health/sageplace/home-words