I was thinking yesterday about this notion of “home.”
We have lived in Florida for 19 months. Our stuff is there. We are part of a church there. We have neighbors we love and are part of the community there at the mission home offices. We have grown to love sand between our toes and summer mornings spent at the pool. Seeing alligators in a lake is nothing new and amazing to my kids. Palm trees and thick, fake-feeling blades of green-year-round grass are part of our daily lives. In many ways, Florida has become home for us.
But when we drove up Fancy Gap Mountain and smelled the mountain air, we sure did feel like we were coming home again. And when we hugged our friends at our church in Virginia, we felt like we had come home. And when I had dinner with my girlfriends, I felt like I had really returned home. And when our kids jumped right into Vacation Bible School with all their old friends, I watched them and felt very much like we had all come home.
Then we drove up the highway to my husband’s hometown. We roasted hot dogs and marshmallows with his whole family and watched our children play with cousins. We laughed as they played baseball with an old stick and walnuts. And I think we all felt like we had come home.
Then we drove on up the highway to my hometown. I slept in my old bedroom and visited with extended family. We roasted more marshmallows, and my kids played with more cousins. We went on a picnic to a state park I picnicked in when I was a kid, and my children swam in the river. We showed my husband and children some local history. And it felt good to be home.
Then I went to Jackson’s Mill, the state 4-H camp where I spent so many weeks as a teenager. As soon as we drove into camp, I remembered the name of every cottage, the steps to folk dances, the names of people I hadn’t seen in a decade, the words to songs I hadn’t sung in years. I danced to Little Black Book and sang Middies, Bloomers and felt like, after ten years, I had finally come home.
I love that so many places and people have come together to form me into who I am. I love that so many places feel like home to me. (And yet, in some ways none of them feel completely like home because there is always a longing for my eternal home, but that is a whole other topic.)
And, even more, I love that my children are comfortable and at-home jumping waves at the beach and climbing giant rocks in a West Virginia river, playing in the soft sands along the ocean and digging in the muddy sand of a mountain river.
I love that my children have had weeks to enjoy summer in the valleys and mountains of West Virginia and Virginia. They’ve caught lightning bugs and been bitten by mosquitoes. They have climbed trees and played with sticks. They’ve walked through wooded trails, tripping over tree roots and rocks.
I hadn’t realized how important this would be to me, that my children’s feeling of “home” would include cool mountain breezes and multi-generational family cookouts and the rocky sides of mountains and playing in real mud.
I’m satisfied living in Florida and making that one of our homes, but I know that the mountains of West Virginia and Virginia will always be another home for my children. We will visit in the summer and walk through woods thick with rhododendron and, at night, look up at the stars, so clear and bright. We will visit in the autumn and crunch leaves beneath our feet and shiver under our fleece jackets. And sometime when Jackson and Griffin are older and lose their memories of snow, we’ll visit in the winter and throw snowballs and build snowmen.
Yes, this notion of “home” is interesting. I have several homes, several places filled with memories which make me the person I have become. And we have a home in Florida where we are making memories and becoming the people we will be.