You can go home again.
When I was young, my dad and stepmother dragged me along with them for regular visits to her family's homestead in rural North Carolina. After a few years, they abandoned city life and settled into a comfortable house on 30 acres of fields, streams and woods in a small Quaker farming community in Alamance County.
I spent important slices of my adolescence there. I learned to bale hay (and learned that I was allergic to hay). I helped slaughter hogs (and quit bacon for several years). I hunted (mostly without success) frogs, squirrels, deer and raccoons. I dug potatoes, strung barbed wire, swam in ponds, got stung by bees. I learned a bit about God, pinto beans and Tarheel basketball. I learned to understand my father more honestly because of who he became in that house, and in that small community.
My dad died at that house on Greenhill Road in 1997, and my stepmother passed away just a few short years later. The property was sold, and we found fewer reasons to visit.
Nikole and I went back to Greenhill Road last weekend on our way home from visiting family in Charlotte. My dad and stepmother's neighbors still live in their farmhouse across the road, where I played constantly with their son when I was growing up. Treva and Leonidas haven't changed one bit, and we immediately felt at home. Again.
Watching Jack and Thea delight in a passel of barn cats, moo at nearby cows, and throw straw at each other in the back of an old wagon made the detour so worthwhile. Leonidas had pulled his tractor out to give the kids a hayride, and so all of us piled into the back of the wagon as he meandered down the gravel road, across the hay field, along the creek and past the barn. It was too short a visit, but it was packed with memory and meaning.
Creating a sense of place for our children -- visiting their grandparents, spending time at Nikole's family place on the Chesapeake Bay, walking our neighborhood, exploring our city -- is important. It roots them in story, and in relationship. And I believe it will give them an anchor as they grow and stretch into themselves.
I've always valued the anchor of my stepmother's home in North Carolina. And my infrequent visits are visceral reminders that memories, stories and relationships always matter.