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It’s no big secret that I am not a North Carolina native.
I’ve lived here for almost 10 years. I wasn’t one of those folks who move from a northern place to North Carolina and try to make it like it was back home. I came here to get away from all that nonsense, so you don’t have to worry about me being one of the transplants who moves here only to complain that life was so much better back home.
I join my neighbors and friends by telling the transplants who complain to kindly go back because we don’t want any of their drama here. If there is one thing I have learned about Southern living, it’s that drama has its own place here and, like sweet tea and hurricanes, it is done with a certain style. There just is no place for Northern drama here.
I do get homesick once in a while. Don’t get me wrong, folks. I love living here. There is a certain civility to living here that is all but gone back home. When I get homesick, it’s mostly for places or things.
A lot of the time I miss certain people and I always regret not spending more time with some folks. I was always too busy or there wasn’t enough time. The holiday season is coming at us like a runaway train and I’m pretty sure my homesickness is amplified at this time of the year. Like last year, we are staying home for the holidays and not traveling. The yearly trek has gotten to be an ordeal for my wife and me and we just don’t enjoy the time on the road like we used to.
A lot of the things I am finding myself homesick for aren’t around anymore. I’m not sure if I am actually homesick or just miss what used to be. That’s a tricky spot to be in, especially when you are as nostalgic as I tend to be.
Someone asked me recently what we were doing for the holidays and I told them we were staying here in North Carolina and visiting my wife’s parents and some friends and that was about it. We’d probably be back in our own house by early Christmas evening. It triggered something and I spent some time looking at places back home on Google Maps for a while.
I discovered my great-grandmother’s house was for sale and I looked at the listing online. It wasn’t decorated in the style she had decorated it, but the floor plan looked the same and I was flooded with memories of parties and Christmases and for a little while I was 10 years old again in the front room of her house, opening presents and listening to the adults say things when they didn’t think us kids were listening.
I remembered the 100th birthday of a dear family friend and how we had a grand time. He lived only three years after that, but was still driving and such until the very end.
I looked at my grandmother’s house on Google Maps. It was only a few blocks from her own mother’s house and had even more memories. Holidays, birthdays and weekends when my brother and I would spend the night without any special reason.
My grandmother was a schoolteacher and before she retired, we kids would help her check and grade papers. Even way back then, teachers worked at home on the weekends. She would take my brother and me out to dinner at a place where, for dessert, we would each get a hot fudge sundae in a miniature baseball batting helmet. There was a movie screen and silent movies would play while you waited for your meal. There was free popcorn, but never so much as to spoil your meal.
My wife and I would visit the “scenic” overlook we went to a few times and remember the excitement of our courtship. It wasn’t particularly scenic then, and it’s not so scenic now, as it’s a big parking lot with a view of the Baltimore Beltway. It’s slightly scenic at sunset, and not so during rush hour.
We’d like to go back to the pier by the harbor where we sat when we were young and talk for hours like we did then. It’s not safe to be there at night any longer and from what we hear, daytime can be a little dicey.
We’re not sure if we’re going to go back to visit this year. The kids are grown and the grandkids are only a couple of hours away. My grandmother’s memory is fading rapidly, but my wife calls her regularly to check in on her. She’s in assisted living and we’re pretty sure she is not clear on who my wife is, but we know who she is and that’s what’s important. North Carolina has been our home for a while now and we’re pretty confident it will be for the rest of our lives. It’s OK to be homesick once in a while.
I’ve discovered, however, that home is not a particular place. Home is a feeling, Home is an emotion. And while I will always miss where I am from, home is always where I am.
Joe Weaver, a native of Baltimore, is a husband, father, pawnbroker and gun collector. From his home in New Bern, he writes on the lighter side of family life.