Something dreadfully appealing cries out when I go home.
I do not know from where it comes, but I hear it as loudly as I feel it.
“Come back, come back,” it clamors. “You know you love it here.”
I do. And I fear it. Something about knowing where everything is even though it’s changed a million times since I left makes me feel a little too comfortable.
I am on a personal journey. All of the world seems to be conspiring to send me home. I resist because I do not enjoy comfort; I resist because I prefer the challenge of making something uncomfortable comfortable.
But I am old. Nearly 30 with a child is too old and too cumbersome to be tackling challenges I’ve made myself believe exist. I should be married soon. My daughter would like that. I’ve fought the good fight and failed.
Temptation lurks around every corner when I go home. The state parks are reason enough for me to stay, as are the ski resorts. The dining selections would make my body fat – I do not have the metabolism I had when this was my residence. I’d also enjoy the cheap Canadian beer too much.
It’s unlikely I’d escape middle adulthood without the ailments of childhood. Each time I come here, I cross paths with folks still fighting this battle – and losing horribly, with DWIs and nicked-up criminal records to prove it. I’m slightly proud of my unscathed rap sheet.
Still, when I breathe the charcoal-scented air of summer here, I cannot help but feel relief. I smell home. It trickles down the back of my throat. It reminds me of believing I’m wanted; it has the touch of completeness.
It tastes like relief from winter and feels like I never left.
Perhaps – maybe, just maybe – I never did leave. It’s quite possible I left my soul in these hills – my heart in these crumbling buildings and love (I still have some) in these ramshackle streets with peeling arrows. Maybe the true me is here and is reunited with the shadow of myself I’ve become each time I go home.
That could be why I am so renewed by stepping in my footprints.
I think of 1,000 reasons not to move home when I am home. The economy is not what it used to be. It’s hard to exercise a liberal arts degree in the Rust Belt. It only seems good when I visit because all I do when I visit is hang out with the past, which was particularly awesome. It will likely be a mistake to leave the South if I do so to live where I grew up.
I say these things often when I am home, recalling my mill house and garden and national forest. I remind myself of nice weather, cheap air conditioning and pulled pork and grits. I state to myself Kalista would resent me for making her leave the South, where she was born.
Yet I do not have to remind, recall or forcefully state to find home appealing. The world conspires; my feelings are not coerced.
I am, therefore, coerced.