01 February 2011


Video: 'Barton Hollow' by The Civil Wars

People used to tell me that you don't know what you have until you've lost it. I never knew what they were talking about until I encountered something called 'life' and now I am fairly well acquainted with the concept. I think this same thing holds true with traveling and the concept of 'home'. You never truly appreciate your home until you've left it. When I was growing up, all I wanted to do was leave the US. I dreamed of traveling far and wide. I would have no ties to hold me back, I would come and go as I pleased, and the concept of 'home' would have no meaning. 'Home' would be the place where my family was located and where I was not. But as I've grown older, I've realized that this is not as simple in practice as it is in principle. Like it or not we form attachments to the people and places around us. The goodbyes become a bit harder to say, the tears more difficult to choke back. The concept of having a 'home' is no longer quite as unappealing as it once was.

It is a bit ironic: my forebears made long and arduous journeys across the Atlantic from the Old World to the New in search of something - new possibilities, new freedoms, a new life. Several generations down the road, my grandfathers and grandmothers moved from the towns in which our family had settled to the cities of the north in the search of the same thing - new possibilities and a new life. I am the beneficiary of this new life and what do I do? Return to the same country that my ancestors left so long ago. I am changed for this experience, mostly for the better but not entirely, and the lessons that I have learned will remain with me throughout my life. The most important lesson (apart from 'an expiration date is there for a reason') has been the importance of my family, friends, and home. Yes, I may bitch about them quite frequently, and yes, I may hurt them with my careless words just as they hurt me. (I am, after all, a sensitive soul. Or a drama queen, depending on whether you are talking to my Mother or Father.) But in the end, they are always there. In good and bad, through thick and thin: they are there. And home is the place where I know that I can go when all else fails.

Why did I post this today? I watched the above video 'Barton Hollow' by The Civil Wars and it reminded me of when I traveled to Georgia in 5th grade for the Hendrick (my Dad's mum's family) family reunion. Georgia is the furthest into the 'deep south' that I have ever been. (I've been to Florida, but I don't really count it as the 'south'. It is a unique entity in itself, much like California). It was a strange trip...we stayed in a house that I was (and am still) convinced is haunted. We walked through the forest past dirt mountains that my Dad's cousin poked with a stick to show me how quickly the fire ant residents could potentially overcome a human. In the same forests we unearthed the long-buried tombstones of ancestors whose names appeared as three brief lines in my Dad's genealogical records: name, date of birth, date of death. In between lay a lifetime's worth of memories and experiences, details that forever lost to the winds of time as soon as they passed beyond. We visited the now-demolished Hendrick plantation, saw the site of the farmhouse where 'Great Grand-daddy so-and-so was shot for his Confederate gold' (which has definitely not made it down the line to me), and ate a strange substance known as 'grits'. Perhaps the strangest experience of all was hearing about the 'war of Northern aggression' as if it had occurred just yesterday. My 5th grade self was mystified at this strange culture of 'the south'.

Unfortunately, the same winds of time that erode our physical landmarks on this earth have also been at work on my memory. I no longer remember what it was like to experience that culture so markedly different from the one that I had been brought up in. I don't remember what it was about grits that I didn't like (although, in keeping with my 10 year-old principles, I probably would not try it again) or why I found it so incredibly odd that my Dad's cousins did not drink Diet Coke or Coffee (they're Mormons). My point is that for a long time I've been searching the world for something...although I'm still not quite sure what. I think that after this summer I may have to start looking within the United States itself. I may road-trip it back down to Georgia or to Clifton Forge, VA (population -2...just kidding! It has a population of 4289 according to that venerable and completely unquestionable source of knowledge: Wikipedia).

It is time to come home.

(Except by 'it is time' I really mean 'it will be time in a few weeks'. I've got 9 more weeks of classes, a month of spring break, and a month of exams to get through before this last rollercoaster ride is over.)

"My Father's Father' by the Civil Wars

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