Going Home

This is my home, Wilmington, North Carolina. I was born here, but I haven’t always lived here. My family relocated to Florida when I was five years old. But Wilmington was always home.

Most families leave home to go on vacation. My family’s vacation was to go home.

Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration.  ~Charles Dickens

Yesterday’s challenge on the Daily Word was What is your favorite word? Why?

“Home” is the best word to my ears. It conjures up comfort, warmth, familiarity, love.

My family moved a lot when I was a kid. I went to thirteen different schools in twelve years. Some years, I went to different schools in the same year. It was hard to feel like you had a “home” when your home kept changing from one rented house to another every few months.

I guess that’s why “home” became so important to me. I needed, desperately, a place that I could feel connected to.

Every year, in the summer, my parents would pack my brother and myself into the back of whatever car we happened to have at the time, from whatever city in Florida we were living in, and they would say, “We’re going on vacation kids! We’re going home.”

It was a good twelve-hour ride in the back-seat of the car, cooped up with my younger brother, and books and toys that were supposed to keep us occupied. There was also no air conditioner in the cars in those days, so it was hot. My dad liked to get a good early start, which meant getting up at three am so we could be on the road by four.

After a long day on the road, enduring the heat and the constant bickering with my brother about who was taking up more room, the best part for me was driving over the Cape Fear River and my first view of home.

My dad would say, “Look, kids! We’re home!”

I would get a lump in my throat. I would crane my neck to look out of the backseat window, so I could get a view of the familiar Wilmington waterfront – the church spires, the boats in the river including the majestic BATTLESHIP NORTH CAROLINA, the quaint historic buildings.

Going home meant visits with friends and relatives; aunts and uncles, cousins, both grandmothers. It meant playing on my grandmother’s front porch, eating from a huge pot of goulash that was prepared by her loving hands, going to sleep on the back porch with my cousins, listening to the crickets, giggling under the covers.

Going home meant spending the day under Johnny Mercer’s Pier at Wrightsville beach, slathering on Coppertone, eating hot dogs with chili and  coleslaw, riding the waves on rented canvas rafts, walking on the beach listening to the seagulls screams mingling with the joyous cries of children playing in the surf, smelling cotton candy and popcorn and salty air.

Going home meant listening to my parents laugh, watching them try to dance the shag and cut up with their friends from high school, getting up early to eat scrambled eggs and taste sweet coffee in my grandmother’s kitchen. It was listening to old stories about how things used to be. It was belonging somewhere.

Now I am 53 years old. I have lived my entire adult life back in, or near, my hometown. There is no one house that I can point to and say – that was my home. I have adopted the whole city as mine. Today, driving over the bridge and seeing my precious city still brings tears to my eyes.

I’m still happy to be home.