Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Going home to someplace you never knew was home

(Written in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania)

A year ago this past April, I loaded up my car and my two daughters and the most precious of our possessions and left Central Pennsylvania for Florida. I am from Florida. It's the place where I grew up, where I know every road and shortcut and the best beaches and the best places to play hooky from work on a beautiful day (thank you Pam Houston for teaching me how important it is to know where to misbehave!)

I was never very happy in Pennsylvania...I knew that the people who lived here were generally from here and I thought they had no interest in newcomers. I saw the sky as usually grey, and winters felt cold, damp and long. I was glad to get back to Florida, to the land of beaches and palm trees and festivals outdoors all winter long. I've been happy there. My career is doing well, my daughter who faced the challenges of Juvenile Arthritis is doing better and both girls are excelling in school.

Friday I came back to Pennsylvania for my son's high school graduation. He lives with his dad up here. And since I arrived, I've discovered something disconcerting.

This place that I could not wait to leave in the rear view mirror, feels like home.

I am confused.

Or rather I was. As I sat high atop a hill overlooking the green valleys and farm land below me, a cool fresh breeze blowing the trees gently, I realized the truth.

View looking down over Elizabethtown
It was not the place I did not like. It was my life in this place.

When I lived here, I lived in a big 227 year old house that needed an endless amount of work. There were electrical, plumbing, heating and maintenance challenges. There were always too many things to fix to ever allow for spending money on things of beauty or comfortable furniture. The walls and ceiling and floors seeped 200 plus years of dust and dirt no matter how often I swept or vacuumed or wiped or scrubbed.

In the summer the house was hot. In the winter it was cold.

And for most of the time here, I was in a very bad marriage. It was sad and ugly and destructive to my self esteem and happiness. Peace and happiness were elusive.

And last but certainly not least, I was broke and financially dependent.

The combination of all of those factors made me hate where I lived. Made me run as soon as I finally gathered the strength and the money to go.

And now I am back. Visiting. And perhaps finally seeing this place for all it really is instead of as a part of my miserable life.

View from the Masonic Home
It is beautiful.

In my haste to escape, I overlooked so much of the beauty. I turned my back on good friends and even more potential good friends I could not see through my struggles.

For the past three days, I have been the recipient of countless hugs. In stores, restaurants, schools and homes, I have been asked over and over if I am back. Even the woman who handed me my iced tea at Wendy's was glad to see me and asked where I had been.

Without even realizing, I became a part of this town. I had a home. I just never knew it until now.

I cannot regret leaving. I think I needed to go away to find my footing, to understand my strengths and weaknesses and learn to trust myself. I need to go to the place I always thought of as home through all my years away to find out where I already had a home.

Is it time to come home for good?

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