“Where we love is home –
home that our feet may leave
but not our hearts.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes
I think we are all born looking for home. As I spun my teen-age dreams of fame and fortune in far away places, I did not know that I was longing for home. I believed I belonged elsewhere. We were poor country people. The prospect of living what I perceived to be the limited, suffocating lives of my mother and my grandmother sent me into a panic. And so I set about to reinvent myself.
After many years, a lot of hard work and a great deal more good luck, I had attained a great education, a prestigious career, a great family, and a good zip code. I believed I had recreated myself. I even changed my name. I seldom thought about that little country girl desperate to escape her origins. But just below the surface of consciousness, vague discontent simmered; a little voice struggled to be heard. I read self-help books, learned yoga, practiced transcendental meditation, smoked too much and drank too much, but the most I could ever get was temporary relief. At the next challenge, the next life crises, the scaffolding of my latest self-improvement program would collapse and once again, I would be left with the old familiar unease, a small voice whispering “Listen! Listen to me!”
Then one day, I turned on the TV to distract me from boring household chores and by chance a movie was playing about a family eerily like the one of my childhood. In that imaginary family, I saw for the first time the beauty of my own, their courage, resilience, strength, and goodness. I began to sob uncontrollably. Feelings suppressed for years rose to the surface and I could no longer avoid the truth. I no longer wanted to avoid the truth. Painful as it was, I had to see that I had confused “home” with material things, comfort and appearances, overlooking or refusing to see, the strengths of my heritage; the breathtaking beauty of my birthplace, the creativity and resourcefulness of my people. I had ignored the circumstances of place and time that constrained them, the everyday challenges of daily life that limited their choices beyond anything I ever knew or could imagine. Sadly, I had discounted the enduring values that were my inheritance. Ironically, I was the one living the limited life! I believed my heritage was an impediment to my pursuit of the “good life,” a view in which, sadly, I was aided by popular culture. And to some extent it might have been true. But oh, how much easier life might have been if only I had had the courage to be all that I am, to apply the wisdom instilled in me from birth as well as that I had learned to life’s problems. It was as though I had spent my whole life stubbornly hopping on one foot instead of walking.
Some people seen to know, but I had to learn that heritage cannot be denied. It is the soil from which we spring. It is never perfect soil. It will require tilling and weeding. But we cannot escape it. It is who we are. We can only choose to be nourished and grow from it or to pull ourselves out by the roots and wither.
And so I have cone home. With open eyes, an open heart and a passion to embrace my birthplace, to learn the stories of my foremothers and to tell them before they are lost in the dust of history. I owe them that and so much more.