Falling for home again


It will always be a home to me.

I ONCE BELIEVED “home” was an absolute – meaning there could only be one and no varying degrees. Like the words “best” and “perfect.” Things aren’t “more” perfect and you can’t have two “best” friends.

I thought I’d only ever have one home, but I now have two: either of the Carolinas (neither is more perfect than the other) and Western New York. Most of the time, I’m going with SC if asked to choose, for it is where my daughter has been educated, learned to ride a bike and feels most comfortable. With the exception of her first four years in North Carolina, SC has always been her home. Plus I’ve learned to like it here. I’ve made three friends, acclimated to the weather and spent the majority of my career in this state.

But a terrible thing happens to me each year: autumn comes.

I’VE HEARD STORIES and seen photos of the foliage in the mountains of the western parts of the Carolinas. Pretty? Yes. Better than usual? Of course. I even witnessed it one fall and vowed to never return so not to spoil my memory.

It’s nothing compared to where I am from.

Come Oct. 1, I regain my status as a visitor in SC and I just want to go home.

  • Home is where Halloween traditions rival Christmas – and no one thinks anyone is disrespecting Jesus for it
  • Home is where apples are everywhere – Macintosh apples, which are distributed like pricey imported beer here
  • Home is where football season is seven days per week – not just one or two
  • Home is where there are waterfalls, streams, rivers, trout and real foliage with a dozen times the colors there are here and four times the staying power
  • Home has pumpkins everywhere. No one buys pumpkins at Walmart, the grocery stores or churches. That’s absurd.
  • Home has terrifying hay rides that feel romantic, hot apple cider and campfires
  • Home uses corn stalks and hay bales and handmade bows to decorate houses, street signs and businesses
  • Home is where my daughter’d take school field trips to see apples pressed into cider if we lived there. That’s so much better than Common Core shit.

And I always want to go back to feel the wind on my face again.

I GET THE SENSATION I’ve been unfaithful in a relationship this time of year – like I’m living a lie. What am I doing here when my heart is up there? But the truth is, I’m pretty comfortable sleeping in the bed I’ve made for my daughter and I … just not this time of year.

The Bills play (insert team here) Sunday. I bet I could drive up for the game and be back in time to take Kalista to school Monday.

I wonder if work would be okay with me taking a week off on such short notice.

Man, I’d kill for some donuts and cider from the Cider Mill.

Thoughts like these run through my head almost daily this time of year. I’d never act on (some of) my whims, but the idea I even consider driving 14 hours each way for a football game and no sleep or doing something to jeopardize my job is flabbergasting. Clearly, I have to stop this.

IT IS MY SINCERE hope those living in Western New York – particularly my family and old pals – know just what they’ve got. Sure, the economy’s better down here. The taxes are lower, home football teams win, it doesn’t snow, cars don’t rust and there seems to be plenty of jobs.

But they’d miss it if they came here.10626679_10203984233382094_2416878040363307151_n



The leaves, the smells, the solemn walks under dismal skies. They may not know it, but this stuff gets engrained in a soul – twisted and wrapped around the fibers that compose a man.

Take it away and the silence is piercing.

No one raised there can ever forget it.

At least I can’t.

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4 Responses to Falling for home again

  1. Sharon Barber says:

    Justin, you forgot one very important item in your list of “home”….a Red’s and Trudy’s hamburger after the home game (now played “under the lights”)…. 🙂 …. yum!

  2. Pam Caldwell says:

    Just got back from Soo, Canada, and Agowa Canyon. The colors there put Ohio and Michigan as second for sure. Pity those in Colorado who run to the mountains when the Aspens turn as they are astonished by green and yellow only!!

    • There are definite reds and oranges here, but not as many and not for nearly as long. Summer is everyone’ favorite season here. Boating, lakes, etc. That’s cool, too, but I prefer a more thought-provoking environment.

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