For me, Home with a capital "H" is Nashville, Tennessee. The South. I love the South. I know it has a lot of baggage associated with it, some of it deserved, some of it exaggerated, and some of it just plain made up by people who have merely passed through or never even visited.
What do I love about the South? The obvious, of course: it's home to all of my family. When you leave a place as a single girl, you miss your family all the time, but you're building your own life, so it's easy to push those feelings aside in favor of the here and now. But when your life transitions to the next level, when you begin to create a family of your own, that's when you begin to miss your family in a way that hurts....and not just because you have to pay everyone who's not family to watch your children!
Then there are the little things: the insane food which, no matter how anyone above or west of the Mason-Dixon line tries, cannot be duplicated. (If I had a nickel for how many times I've said, "You call that 'cornbread?'" I would be lounging on a tropical island at the moment.) Sweet tea. Chick-fil-A. Need I say more?
The friendliness. Sure, some of it is phoney, but in the south, when you walk down the street, people--people you do not know--look you in the eye and say hello; they don't avert their gaze as they pass. People chat you up in line for no reason. Just because that's what you do.
The landscape. The rolling green hills and three-hundred-year-old trees. The beaches and seafod boils. The front-porch swings.
The driving. People drive fast there. People get in the left lane and actually pass the people next to them. Who knew this was something I was taking for granted the first half of my life?
The hospitality. The luncheons for the most insignificant of reasons. The food people cook for you when you have a baby, lose a parent, lose a job. The table settings. The deviled egg plates. The effort.
The decorating. Yes, I said "decorating." Southerners are not afraid of going all out where aesthetics are concerned. Of filling every vacant space with objects. Of passing down items from generation to generation, even if said items are worthless to the average person. If it's not tied down, we monogram it; it's not that we don't know they're our towels, we just like an excuse to throw curly script on something, especially if it's pink.
I know many (if not all) of these things exist in some form in all parts of the country, even in the world, but I miss my own special variety of it all, or at least the variety I have conjured for myself. Some of it surely has been romanticized, but isn't that the great thing about all that is far away, whether geographically or chronologically? We forget all that made us pull out our hair in favor of that which makes our eyes glisten with nostalgia. Thank heavens for that.
I was fortunate, growing up, to have an extra-special home/Home. We lived just outside the city on 18 acres, in a home built in 1808. As a 9-year-old child, moving from a duplex I shared with my single mother to what then seemed a palatial home with outbuildings, a barn, a pool and a guest house, I felt like Little Orphan Annie moving into Daddy Warbucks' estate.
As an adult, I now see my house of childhood in comparison with the McMansions that have sprung up all around, and I see that our house is not so grand. The edges are worn, things need replacing. But it has something those McMansions will never possess: soul. And that is a fine thing indeed.
My family has since gone through some changes over the last few years, and our family house is now for sale. My mother sent over a few of the listing photos, which inspired me to reflect on not only my childhood house, but my childhood Home, and why I miss it so.
Then I remind myself: home isn't a place but a state of mind--it's the people who make it home, and we carry those people with us wherever we go.