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Returning home

June 29, 2016

Who says you can’t go home
There’s only one place they call me one of their own
Just a hometown boy, born a rolling stone, who says you can’t go home
Who says you can’t go back, been all around the world and as a matter of fact
There’s only one place left I want to go,

Jon Bon Jovi & Richie Sambora


I don’t know what creativity transpired for the musicians to pen the lyrics to “Who Says You Can’t Go Home”.  What I will never know in song origin, I make up for in sentiment.  Last week, I lived those words. Standing underneath the stately magnolia tree, I was transported to the elementary school days of my childhood when teachers would ask us to clean the erasers.  Smacking those black woolen felt erasers into clouds of white dust, we would enjoy the Southern dappled sun peeking through the waxy leaves.

Carefully walking over the exposed roots, I traipsed back to the vehicle where my completely Midwestern family patiently indulged my tour of childhood schools and homes.  The older I get the more I value roots; both those supporting my favorite tree of all time and those connecting and grounding us to our childhoods.  Although I haven’t lived in the South for nearly thirty years, the scent of Gulf air and the sound of the whippoorwill are not far from my soul’s memories. I haven’t spent much of my life thinking about the influence of the place I call home, but sometimes paradigm shifts are subtle.

It’s always the little things. The interior paint of our home is called “sea salt”, my grandmother’s cast iron cornbread pan rests on my stove, and a big bag of grits can be found in my cupboards. The South never truly leaves a girl.


On our recent vacation, one which was planned to correspond with my grandmother’s 92nd birthday, I realized just how much the South has shaped my life. Although I love both of these things, my nostalgia extended far beyond “yes ma’am’s” and door-opening gentlemen and somehow I felt more alive than I had in many days.  Of course, visiting in the summer was questionable judgment, but when your Mama is a June-bug there aren’t many alternatives.


My senses were overloaded in way that made my soul say, “Remember this.  Savor this moment because your next infusion might be awhile away.” The sound of the Gulf waves lapping the shore were the melodic framing of many days and nights. The smells of home cooking and the sea aroused my olfactory bulbs.  All the swirls of green and blue with a few white blossoms punctuated my vision causing heart to be truly content. The feel of salt spray on my skin and sand between my toes lingered for days.

This is home. This is where I truly feel happy.

It wouldn’t be the South without the swapping of tales and little humor sprinkled in the right places like the when my uncle teased the waitress the cooking was so good it would make someone want to slap their grandma or when my vegan cousin suggested he could buy a whole lot of carrots with a gift card to a fish house.

My South included the divine, sitting in the wooden pew of a little white church being surrounded by the “Amen’s” of God’s people and the standing to sing the hymns of my childhood.  Having the opportunity to speak and share God’s love for others while my Southern Baptist uncle, who happens to be the pastor,, looked on and said I had missed my calling melted my heart completely.


We did a whole lot of visiting and eating. Sharing my childhood with my children included a gastrointestinal tour of the southeast. There were Cracker Barrel and Po’Folks veggie plates, lemonade and chicken sandwiches at Chic Fil’A, big ol’ Texas sized burgers at What-A-Burger, juice dripping Georgia peaches, and limeades at Sonic, but somehow my favorite boiled peanuts eluded us.  Buying the shrimp straight off the boats at the biggest tourist attraction in Florida, Joe Patti’s, was a must as was al fresco dining at Flounder’s amid cannons firing at pirate ships on Pensacola Beach.  A little walk-up stand was frequented twice, because the best foot long chili dogs and milkshakes in Alabama can be found there.

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Included in our moments were the new memories made like when my children asked to eat at a Waffle House because they had only seen a bazillion of them on our drive from Atlanta to Pensacola.  They were dismayed at my neglect of never having brought them to one of the iconic diners.  Mutiny akin to that of those pirate ships was on their mind when I professed that while they had never eaten at one, their older brother actually had.  Their steely silence lifted when the gigantic waffle was set before them.  Thank goodness for pecan waffles – a mother’s saving grace!


None of the places visited or the food eaten was the greatest part of our trip.  No sirree! as my tiny little cousin exclaimed more than once in our visiting time.  He along with every other cousin, aunt, uncle, mom, dad, and grandmother were the best part of my grounding. Hugging necks and breathing the same air as my family – all of them – was truly the greatest blessing of my summer.  Having my Minnesota children experience every bit of it was – well, the lemon in my sweet tea.


Today no matter where you are and where you define home, be thankful for the memories stored there. They are a priceless collection.

As for me, these are my people and this is my home – every Southern fried bit of it!



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