HOMESICK WITH NO WHERE TO GO

Homesickness seems to be the topic in my circle as of late. It has inspired me to explore my own feelings about home. While I’m given over to being reflective on a great many things, home is always  a subject I try to avoid.

A friend’s theory goes that I have conflicted feelings about home, that I both love and hate it. I grew up with the guy. We’re like brothers, and he probably knows me better than anyone, so he might be right in his assessment— more with the hating it part. I struggle with any better feelings.

We come from an extremely rural area in the southeastern part of Kentucky. Places around where I’m from have at times made national news, and while my fellow natives often react in a hurt and bewildered way towards how they portray us, I personally find nothing incorrect in how they view us.

The thing I recall most about being a very young child is terror. My parents were not abusive towards me and my sisters— far from it. In fact, if you can picture The Dude (The Big Lebowski) married to Maria (The Sound of Music) you wouldn’t be far from an accurate portrait of my parents during those days.

Daddy abides!
Daddy abides!

The terror came from a hyperactive imagination directed at the ocean of woods that surrounded our home, surrounded everywhere. There could have been anything in those suckers Anything included giant icky spiders that could eat cows, goats, and especially little blonde boys.

Anything! Including the Headless Horseman!
Anything! Including the Headless Horseman!

I remember staying awake long past my bedtime on long summer nights, listening to ten billion feuding insects, wondering what was out there. My parents assured me that there was nothing to be afraid of, as parents do. I’ve told my own children the same lie, and while they make me want to believe it, it’s still a lie: nothing is okay. There is also plenty to be afraid of.

When I got old enough, my friends and myself would go crashing around in the same woods. That went a long way towards helping me conquer my fear of them. That, and when the outdoorsy males of my family decided to teach me how to hunt and track. Hunting was never something I enjoyed. I felt empowered by it yet empowered in a way I dimly recognized as maybe not being the best way. I had a knack for guns though. When you do something well it can be hard to give up, even if you hate it. I was finally able to kick hunting years later. It was just like a scene out of The Deer Hunter.

Okay? Still trying to figure out how to answer that
Okay? Still trying to figure out how to answer that

All of that was home though — miles of woods, creeks, waterfalls and streams, hunting and fishing, friend with whom I later engaged in all kinds of craziness with. There are small towns and then there are smaller towns. As Peter Gabriel once said “The place where I come from is a small town, they think so small, they use small words.” That’s where I’m from.

Weirdass visuals are optional
Weirdass visuals are optional

I once read a famous writer’s thoughts on growing up rural. He and I have similar memories of elementary school. Mom and dad both had good jobs, didn’t possess any financially crippling bad habits, so me and my sisters didn’t do without. Plenty of the other kids did. So many of them wore the same dirty clothes week to week. For so many of them, school lunch was the only meal they received during the course of the day. So many of them knew abuse and neglect on a deeply intimate level. I was fortunate in so many ways— I at least got to have a childhood.

village+of+the+damned

As I got older, businesses in town started to fail. As a result, there was less to do. A couple of thousand idle and bored teenagers is an equation that adds up to all kinds of shit happening, and indeed it did. I covered my misspent youth in a previous post and have no intention of getting into all that again. It wasn’t just boredom that made us terrible. It played a big part, though.

There is a deleted scene from Blade Runner in which one of the replicants talks about being “homesick. With no where to go.” Whenever I return to where I grew up, I feel that way. There are more people I use to know gone, more people dead, and more people on dope who are the living dead. All the things that use to make it home for me just aren’t there anymore.

There was a small Baptist church that use to be located about a mile down the road from where we lived. I use to stand on the porch and listen to their singing— no musical accompaniment— a primitive chorus of vocals that use to rise up and make the hills sound haunted. That church burned down 14 years ago. The fire was probably the result of arson.

Gone are the great old characters that use to populate the area, many of them ala Mayberry. All of them were great storytellers. I use to sit at their feet and listen to stories about life in the coal camps, the Depression, the Great Wars, family histories and tall tales that were passed down for generations. Nobody has replaced them.

It’s hard going to place and feeling disconnected— in seeing a faint outline of the boy you once were and a world that no longer exists on top of things. Too hard. I no longer visit unless there is absolutely no way to get out of it. As far as home goes, I guess I’m searching for a new place to hang my hat.

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9 thoughts on “HOMESICK WITH NO WHERE TO GO

  1. After reading this last night, I started thinking about the concept of home and what makes any one place home over another. It’s not the buildings or the landscapes (although I think the picture at the top of your post is GORGEOUS) or as I whined about in my post, the food, it’s the people we love that make a place home. My grandparents were a big reason why Florida became ‘home’ and since they passed away, the attachment to the geography went with them. I agree with your friend – you are conflicted when it comes to how you feel about home. I also think (I know I am) you might be divided in your feelings because it’s hard to have the people who have been home to you and who might BE home to you not right with you all the time. You resent where you are because they’re not there with you, but you love where you are because still others WERE once. At least, that’s how I feel about it, for myself. So all those words come to, I understand, and if you’re looking for a place to hang your hat, I’m sure I know of a really great one for you to check out. 🙂

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  2. Oh, how does the adage go? “Home is where the heart is”? I’m curious, where is your heart at the moment? I think that’s how one could possibly define the concept of “home.” I grew up a military brat (and was military wife for 6 years) — home was always where, as Denise has aptly indicated, the grandparents were (coincidentally, Florida). It couldn’t feasibly be where we were living. Although, my parents tried very hard to make a small village in Suffolk, England a possible “home.” As much as I didn’t care for it though, my grandparents’ place was still always there, no matter the changes to the town, the people, the “vibe.” I’m there now, and it’s only now that realize that I don’t feel “home,” and that’s mainly because the family I’ve associated as “home” are no longer here.

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  3. I was born in West Virginia, moved with Mom and Pops to New York state when I was 3. Never visited my home town, a cousin who visits often said the house I was born in still stands. I do want to visit. John Denver’s Country Roads, is one of my favorite songs because of the line, “West Virginia, mountain mama, take me home, country roads.” I don’t remember it, but in my heart, it is home. Your post fills me with nostalgia, and thank you for liking my page.

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  4. WOW – thank you for viewing my blog and allowing me to read yours! This definitely made me feel like I was reading part of my past – my life while living with my grandparents in Mississippi. Believe me, I’m not proud of some of what it ‘represents’ either – but I DO miss the simple, southern style and it definitely impacted who this Spanish, Texas girl became…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading, Laura! I’m proud of my roots to some degree. I miss quieter and happier days, I suppose. Maybe I miss seeing the old places with that childhood filter instead of the way I see it now. It’s great to bump into another southerner around these parts!

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