The Home Our Hearts Built

8.11.12 089We moved into my childhood home when I was six, just a few months after my brother Tom died.

One Thursday afternoon while mama was having her hair done, daddy pulled his football team together.  With their pick-up trucks, 30 teenage boys invaded our house and within an hour all of our belongings had been removed from “Needy Creek” and on the way to our new home on Old Buncombe Road.

I can still remember hearing mama tell the story, “they didn’t even take anything out of the drawers, they just took everything as it was, including the dirty dishes.”

In over forty years we have experienced every emotion possible in that home.  I have spent every Christmas there since the days when an “over-served” friend surprised us all dressed as Santa.

Birthdays, family dinners, frog-leg suppers and all the other joys of life has been shared in that home.

We have also had our hard times there.  Not long after we moved in ma-ma fell down the stairs and broke her arm, Sam recuperated there after his injury on the oil rigs and I recuperated there after my flight off the roof.  That home is also where we gathered for a final week as mama was called home to be with the Lord.

Our home on Old Buncombe Road holds a lifetime of memories.  Our voices echo off each brick and laughter, tears, joy and pain is part of the landscape.

When mama died there four years ago, I knew things would never be the same.   There would be an emptiness that could never again be filled.

My first visit back after mama died was the hardest.  I dreaded that trip home for weeks and being in the house was lonely, sad and as hard as we all tried too difficult to be anything but depressing.  I think I spent the entire visit sitting in mama’s chair, something about that big overstuffed La-Z-Boy gave me comfort and every now and then I could catch a whiff of my mama nestled in the fabric.

After the first trip came the first Christmas.  Always the most exciting time on Old Buncombe Road, Christmas was my mother’s favorite time of the year.  The first Christmas, I made sure we kept the traditions alive.  We had Christmas Eve at mama and daddy’s house and opened our gifts.  The next morning, as if blessed by heaven, a snow storm hit and daddy and I had to make an escape back to Florida.  It was his first return to the winter house and I was driving him back.

That Christmas adventure running from the snow gave us all something to take our minds off the sadness.  Daddy and I talked and joked and cried much of the trip back to Florida and I couldn’t help but laugh at what my mama would have said about our Christmas Dinner at I-Hop.

After that first year, subsequent trips to God’s Country got easier.  It even got to a point where I felt comfort just being in the house.  Memories of what seemed like a lifetime ago filled me up when I was there and would help carry me between trips to my childhood home.

While the trips got easier, I continued to find myself drawn to the La-Z-Boy for comfort.  Somewhere along the way, I started sleeping in the chair, after all it was easier than having to make up the room, the heat or in summer cool air was better in the living room than upstairs in my room or it was just better for my breathing at night…. whatever the excuse I gave, the La-Z-Boy continued to comfort.

Everything changed in the summer of 2012.  That summer we almost lost daddy, he was hospitalized for over a month and his prognosis wasn’t good.  During my visits to God’s Country, I was in the house by myself for the first time.  I found myself feeling empty, scared and profoundly sad that my mama was no longer with us and daddy’s health was failing quickly.

Daddy made a recovery and came home.  While not back to his normal self, at 81 he was doing really well.  Last spring he started falling, Sam and I talked about it and knew what had to happen.  Daddy needed to move into assisted living, but convincing daddy of that was a whole different story.  Last June we convinced daddy and he moved into the center on July 1st.

Since going into Assisted Living, daddy continues to thrive, he wants to be home, but deep down he knows he is where he needs to be.

Last year when my niece moved back to God’s Country, Sam and I talked and spoke with daddy and decided it would be good to let her live in the house.  It would be good for her and good for us too so that the house didn’t sit empty.  During the summer, I went home and helped sort through everything on the first level.

The sorting through the house was one of the hardest things I have ever done.  My mother kept everything, there were drawings my brothers and I made in 2nd grade, there were report cards, essays, birthday, Christmas, Halloween, Mother’s and Father’s Day cards.

Photos from every occasion, CDs, VCR tapes, cassettes, you name it my mother saved it.

It was during this time that I affectionately realized my mother was a hoarder……  just so you are aware, one day, you will have the same realization about your mother.

My niece didn’t move in as quickly as we thought, so I spent Christmas in the empty house.  I vowed then that I wouldn’t do that again.

I just returned from a week’s vacation in God’s country.  My niece has moved in and made the house her own.  She has done a great job of decorating the house and making it a cute home for a 24-year-old young woman.

At the end of my week’s visit, there was no doubt in my mind that this was no longer my home.  From this point forward the memories of a life well lived would have to suffice, that old house provided a home for us during good and bad days, the love that I felt in that home will now carry me forward in my heart, now it is about memories….. memories that like an overstuffed La-Z-Boy will comfort me through the days to come.

Now what….. when I left God’s Country in 1982 for college, then the bright lights of the big city and finally southern paradise I never dreamed of going back to God’s Country.

Somewhere along the way, I began to get the pull back to the land of my youth and now I find it harder to leave each time I visit.  Now I dream of a life as a snow-bird, spending part of the year in God’s Country and part of the year in paradise, not a bad life if I say so myself.

I dream of a small condo or cabin in the mountains with large windows I can sit in front of and write.  Write about the beauty of the countryside, the days of my youth and the days of joy and triumph still ahead, I dream and hope that one day I can make this come true.

I no longer have a home in God’s Country, but my memories and my dreams keep the land of my childhood alive and well in my heart.

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