Re-visiting my childhood home brings unexpected results.
One day I was running errands back in my hometown of Eden, N.C. Before making the thirty mile drive back to my current home in Virginia, I decided to stop by my childhood home.
As I made the drive down the now-paved road, I began to reminisce about growing up here. About walking this old country road barefoot in the summertime to buy pop and moon pies, hot gravel under my tender young feet, which became toughened over the years.
Things were simple back then. Parents felt safe letting their kids run up and down our road, but we knew to be home before dark, or there'd be a switchin'. Everyone knew everyone, so we always felt safe and well looked after, and popscicles and kool-aid were readily handed out. I was only five when I was allowed to make the half-mile walk to my friends' house. It was a different world back then, and no boogiemen watched and waited to snatch us away. Our neighborhood felt like family.
As I approached the house, I felt the ever-familiar feeling of coming home, and that made me smile. I was a little nervous that it may be occupied, as it had been on and off since Mama and Daddy passed away. I pulled into the driveway, met by the sight and smell of wild roses and yellow forsynthia, yet found it apparent that nobody lived here anymore. The grass was waist-high, and the front door of the house stood open.
As I sat there staring at what once was my safe haven, much of its red-shingled siding fallen off, I drifted down memory lane. This house saw our good times, as well as bad. We had no bathrooms or running water, but we still managed to survive. We were poor, but I didn't know that back then. It wasn't until the kids at school told me I was poor that it registered, but how could that be? I had food, heat, shelter, plus the baby dolls that Daddy found for me at the trash dump. I loved them as much as I would the prettiest doll on any store shelf. But most of all, I had Mama and Daddy. I felt safe, happy and very loved.
Then there was the day when I was sixteen, when I saw my sweet Mama fall in our garden and succumb to a fatal heart attack. That day and many days after, the world stood still. It was in this house that Daddy and I had to pick up the pieces of our shattered lives.
As I backed out of the driveway, I can't explain how I felt; empty is the only way to describe it. I drove the mile and a half to get back to the highway that would take me home. Suddenly I burst into tears, and this caught me completely off guard. I wept the entire thirty miles to my home. That was just it - this was not my home. Home is what I just left behind, down that old country road.
What brought on the tears, I realized as I sat in the driveway of my house in Virginia, was the feeling of loss. It felt as tangible as if someone had just died - and this was true. The only place I had known as home from the age of four, had died. Never had I seen it empty; forgotten and abandoned. An important part of my family stood alone; unloved. This was a sad day for me, but one thing is for certain: my memories of that old homeplace will never die.