“Going home means I’ve been somewhere and always have a place to return.” Denise Louise Horbaly
Yesterday I spent the better part of the day in RVA, my hometown, and the place I’ll alway call home. The Merriam-Webster defines home as ‘the place where a person lives’. While I no longer reside in Richmond, my heart does.
The drive from Charlottesville to Richmond is approx an hour, around 60 miles, and as I glide along 64 I notice that as the Blue Ridge Mountains fade my spirits lift, my shoulders lower and my heart dances. Without fail these involuntary actions occur each time I make the trek east and, somewhere between exits 118B and 178A, I realize my soul has found itself once more.
Sometimes I tell myself how lucky I am to live so close to my roots, my people. With little planning I can be home to visit my sister, friends who I still keep close (thank you social media) or shop like a crazy woman because let’s face it…Charlottesville, while you do feed me quite well you cannot match the shopping I crave. I’ve lived in some wonderful shopping hubs and ending up here has left me with withdrawals hard to hide. There are exceptions to every rule and we do have some fabulous, unique boutiques and shops I frequent and you know who you are! I’ll be seeing you sometime soon. Yes, getting back to my place of birth, the town that knows the me I was before I was married, or a mother, is really quite easy but would it be the same had I never left?
Had I remained firmly planted in RVA I would know every new neighborhood, school, political candidate and news publication come and gone over the 25 years I’ve been away. I would have most likely continued with my job and career at the same hospital where I began right out of college and I imagine would have become very knowledgable and proficient in that field. I assume I would have also remained in the same general part of the county and quite possibly in the same house traveling to the same grocery store or gym or bookstore for 25 years. My friendships would have become stronger and richer with those who also remained in the area because we could have made memories together growing through our twenties together, marrying and raising our families together and celebrating our milestone birthdays with each passing decade. Who knows, my kids may have attended the same high school I attended had I remained in Richmond.
These things I do think about when going home. But on the drive westward, I am reminded of the following…
In moving away, bountiful opportunities quietly came to me. Firstly, and most importantly, the friendships I collected across the miles remain strong. Some stronger than others but still I am able to recall exciting, heart warming, special times spent in different parts of the country and, should I want, I can reach most of my partners in memory making with a phone call, FB (again, thank you social media) or the old-fashioned Christmas card I enthusiastically create each year. Thank you to all who continue to do the same! Through your annual cards I have watched your families grow as you have mine so in this way we have shared our milestones, celebrated the highs, mourned the lows thus developing our friendships that will endure no matter our zip codes.
With each relo came a new job search. Never one to shy away from a challenge I researched all possibilities. Not knowing who would hire me I obtained a military GS rating and took state boards in order to be available for whatever job I might be offered. I had a wonderful opportunity to work in the private manufacturing industry where I learned the ‘behind the scenes’ development and applications of the products I used at my previous job fresh out of school. In another position I managed a hospital laboratory and again learned a different application of the knowledge I’d been picking up over my years of job hopping. It was in this job I was reminded every day how to treat people. Because I once had a boss who regularly reminded me and my coworkers how disposable we all were, I did my best to tell those working in my department how integral a part of the team they were, what good work they did and how I valued their input. With the many jobs I held over the years of moving I gained strength, confidence and humility – all have served me well and I wonder if I would have been so bold as to seek out such varied positions had I remained in one town for all my working days?
Living on the left coast and the mid-west opened up new opportunities to experience their unique climates and scenery and the people who inhabit those spaces. Learning how to live ‘elsewhere’ is just as important as knowing how to be comfortable in ones own skin. Adaptability made me humble while learning that my way is not the only way. Being the new kid on the block allowed me to bring my ‘back home’ ways to the picnic (“When we say bar-b-que that means there is pulled pork with coleslaw piled high on a bun, not simply a grilling event in the back yard!”) while trying out the local’s recipes (strawberries dipped in sour cream and then dipped in brown sugar…thank you SoCal). And though I may have spent mere years here and there and elsewhere it warms me knowing I’ve left behind a piece of me with those people, my then people, in the temporary homes that held my heart for a brief time. Perhaps they think of me now and again?
Should you ever have the personal debate of ‘Should I stay or should I go?’ I say go! If you never leave home you will never appreciate that special place that holds the memories of who you were then, reminds you to call your mama and makes your heart dance. Going home means I’ve been somewhere and always have a place to return.
p.s. regarding my RVA high school…they defeated my kids’ high school in lacrosse last night. Just sayin’!