I shared this Victor Hugo Les Miserables quote a few years ago when I came home from the Marshalls. I had read it while I was there and still remember the moment. He had read my mind.
Leaving home for Dallas is different, but so much the same. And after you get through this long-but-worth-it quote, I’m going to sound much like a sap. Because I am.
Here it is:
“While we are living in our native land, we fancy that these streets are indifferent to us, that these windows, these roofs, and these doors are nothing to us, that these walls are strangers to us, that these trees are no more than other trees, that these houses which we never enter are useless to us, that this pavement on which we walk is nothing but stone. In after times, when we are there no longer, we find that those streets are very dear, that we miss those roofs, those windows, and those doors, that those walls are necessary to us, that those trees are our well-beloved, that those houses which we never entered we entered every day, and that we have left something of our affections, our life, and our heart in those streets. All those places which we see no more, which perhaps we shall never see again, but the image of which we have preserved, assume a mournful charm, return to us with the sadness of a spectre, make the holy land visible to us, and are, so to speak, the very form of [home]; and we love them and call them up such as they are, such as they were, and hold to them, unwilling to change anything, for one clings to the form of his fatherland as to the face of his mother.”
Victor! Guys, READ THAT BOOK.
Anyway, I left Greenville only a few months ago. You could argue that I’ll change my mind. And maybe I will. Maybe I won’t. What I had guessed was that staying in America would negate most of the homesickness I felt in the Pacific. And I was pretty wrong. There’s no doubt that parts of being over there were harder, but there’s also something kind of sick about seeing pictures and hearing the voices of those who you can’t actually spend your life with. In the islands I could put my hands over my ears and close my eyes and hear and see nothing. In that aspect, it was easier. No internet, no random phone calls, only letters that came when the mail came. And in the Marshalls they don’t believe in the whole, “neither snow nor rain…” thing. Think monthly. Maybe. And forgetting is easier. Not better, and I learned that, too. But sometimes it was easier.
My point is that I can’t quite understand the reality that home is home for me, and that I can’t do much about it. Sometimes I think of those who move away and find their niche in their new place, who swear that their origin no longer has that pull on them. And I wonder why? I don’t think they’re crazy, at all. I just can’t quite get it. For me, it might be so simple as the fact that almost all the people I love in the world are collected within fifty miles of each other. That’s likely the deciding factor. I absolutely miss the “who” more than the “where.”
But I do miss the “where.” The fact is that the asphalt in Dallas doesn’t mean to me what the asphalt in the cities of South Carolina does. I miss highway 290, that pothole I always have to avoid in front of Greenville Tech, the fact that every time I drive by the Dollar General on my end of it, I remember how crazy we TR folk went. (We were mad, by the way. How dare they bring stores into our neck of the woods? Then we realized that we liked buying Reese’s and renting from the Redbox at 9pm on a Tuesday.)
Bald Rock might not make it on the list of the world’s greatest wonders, but it’s mine. I can’t count the times I drove up there by myself to clear my mind, and I was never disappointed. The guy who sells vegetables at the stand knows me, has asked me why I stay out there in the rain, the amused smile on his weathered face always the same.
And downtown Greenville? I’m so proud of that place. I basically grew up in a restaurant that’s fancy in every sense of the word except that it’s not pretentious. Those oddly shaped plates, the stairs, the sound of that ticket printer (I swear it’s not like all others), and the faces that inhabit the walls are ingrained in my mind forever. For some reason, I really like driving down Broad Street, and the brick part of Main Street in front of the Westin just plain makes me happy. I don’t want a double dark chocolate milkshake from any other Marble Slab and I don’t want to give it all I’ve got to finish it anywhere but on one of the swings that line the Reedy.
Oh, the Reedy. It will never get old to me to tell my customers that we get our “Catch of the Day” from there. (Don’t worry, Kramer, I always make sure they know it’s a joke.)
I will always love the half hour drive up to Hendersonville, that second home. I will continue to smile, not cringe, when I drive the stretch where I got my first ticket, and I will remember the song I was listening to, telling my brother, telling my parents, at Carraba’s. That I might need a lawyer (I did get a good one. Kept my license). Because that’s what that road is to me. It’s part of my life.
Wade Hampton Boulevard is my road to everywhere. Woodruff Road is mine to love to hate. I will always take 253 to wherever it can take me, because it’s just plain fun to drop it into second in that curve on Edwards Mill. When I need to go to nowhere, Roe Ford Road is my short drive, the way to Pumpkintown my long one. Chang An is my Chinese place, not just because they know who I am when I call, or because I can’t help but like what I’ve always liked, but because they know my whole family, have watched a generation come into existence.
Dallas, you are nice. The city shines at night, my Cowboys have kept my football heart (although the situation is dire), the people I’ve met are great. I like your tacos. But you don’t have my Blue Ridge Mountains, your fall colors aren’t like mine. Your strange left turns that you can take when the light is red are inarguably efficient, but they aren’t enough to keep me here. Not even your multiple sports venues are enough to keep me here.
And it’s hot. Too hot.
I’m just saying that I love where I’m from, that I’m coming back. That I can’t help myself. When you know, you know, when it comes to so many things. I am the cliché: I didn’t want to stay, didn’t want to want to stay, and I have no good reason. But absence does sometimes really make the heart grow fonder, and sometimes you really don’t know what you’ve got until you hold something else and it’s not the same.