You Can Never Go Home
The late afternoon light in the peninsula of Florida beams through the long leaf pines onto the palmetto palms, cutting golden shafts through the forests. It sparkles and glints and wraps its wet tendrils gently around the stillness and quiet that embraces it. It is the gift unwrapped by the three p.m. downpour whose billowing blue-black clouds form the backdrop for the kaleidoscope sunset to come. Afternoon light in Florida reminds those folks lucky enough to watch it that there really is magic. Afternoon light in Florida welcomes me home to where I first felt completely free to be whoever I was without expectations, where I figured out who I could be when I wasn’t trying to be the me I thought I should be.
I have another home where fog rolls across fresh plowed Tennessee fields when the sun hangs heavy in the west and anyone who pauses long enough will see tiny flashes first here, then there. High, then low. There, then gone. Twinkles and blinks like tiny fairies dancing in the cooling evening. I can see them and instantly feel my bare feet in the cool, dew-covered grass in the yard and Mama waiting with dinner in the house behind me. In those fog-wrapped hollers a part of me will always be a little girl—a granddaughter, a daughter, a little sister, the chubby little nerdling who needed to save the world.
Until I returned to live there after having spent several years in that Florida light, I didn’t realize the impact of leaving my first home. As we prepared to move back “home,” I looked forward to being close to family again—not chosen family, but the one given at birth. I would smile at the thought of being able to go to nieces’ and nephews’ birthday parties and school events and spend time just being with siblings and their spouses. I liked the idea of randomly running into aunts and uncles and cousins and high school classmates. What I didn’t anticipate, however, was how I’d feel boxed in by what I perceived to be their memories of who I had been or expectations of who I would have become. I had moved 600 miles northwest and 20 years backward into my psyche. Suddenly I was more hesitant to be bold, more aware of whether or not I was being who I was expected to be. A tiny but significant part of me was 16-years-old again and accountable to others in a way I had forgotten to be. I rediscovered insecurities I thought I’d lost amongst the pine trees and palmettos.
Though many things were the same, so, too, were things different. Mama was no longer waiting with dinner. Daddy was no longer plowing the foggy fields. I didn’t have to worry about disappointing them, but I also keenly felt the absence of their vigilant prayers and their undying faith in my possibilities. I was no one’s daughter, no one’s granddaughter. I could no longer save the world.
The road from Florida back to Tennessee wasn’t a direct one. Life threw me curve balls and a broken heart. Daddy found peace one night when April turned into May in 2011, and Mama went to meet him a year and 23 days later. Our Abbie girl, all love and blond fluff, followed close behind that July. In the dark months that followed, I decided to go looking for the pieces of my heart that they all took with them. My hunny and Luna and I put the sunbeams in the rear view and headed to Wyoming’s wide open spaces of possibility.
Somewhere out west, between the Absaroka range and the Big Horns, tossed on the winds of the high desert, I found who I was as an orphan. A piece of my heart was gone forever, but I planted my grief in fertile, dry soil and watered it with my tears, and I grew into a woman who felt like a grown up for the first time because I was no longer anyone’s little girl. Wyoming opened its arms to whatever me I could offer it and gave my adult heart a home in which to heal. My time there was short but powerful, and I found another place to call home.
“Home” is many things. The scent preceding the glimmer of vanilla candles. The smell of bacon. Wet dogs. Right Guard Cool Sport. The tinny screech of an automatic gate opening. The curve of the I440 onramp on the east side of Nashville. Long, winding conversations that start during the light of day and end in the wee hours of the morning—or vice versa. Big, heavy arms that wrap fully around you and smother the things trying to take root in your soul, or tiny ones that would kill for you or die for you. Eyes that hear what you say without your ever uttering a word.
Home. Home is not walls or furniture, floors or windows. It’s not even the view. Home is that place where we feel loved and safe and accepted. Home is the place where we are seen and heard.
But it’s also the places where we shrink and where we grow. It’s our hopes and expectations—and those of others. It shapes us, frees us, constrains us. Home is beautifully simple and painfully complicated.
For some, home is a single place for an entire lifetime. For others, like me, it is many places for many different lifetimes.
Home is a particular time in space and all the people and love and hate and joy and anxiety that resides there. In that way, it will never be again, and one can never go back. It is also, however, a particular space at any time, and by going back we can find bits of us we left behind. Maybe if we collect enough of the bits, we can find a way to save the world.
I recently held a drawing to win a copy of my favorite book. I promised to announce a winner on September 24th, but a migraine then a belly ache and then life in general got in the way, and I let you down. Please forgive me. In an effort to properly apologize, I decided to give away not one copy but two! Check your inbox. The winners have been announced by e-mail, and I have sent a teeny consolation prize to the others. To be kept up-to-date on future contests and receive notice of new blog posts directly into your inbox, be sure to subscribe here.
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Unless otherwise noted, all material--written, photographic, and artistic--is the original work of Estora Adams. All rights reserved.