Phelps. Freeburn. Majestic. Pond Creek. Knox Creek. Peter Creek. Up until a few months ago, these were but names of little places in the far southeastern part of Kentucky in Pike County, Kentucky. Just names that I had heard all my life. Places that my Daddy had spoken of so very often and always with a soft, nostalgic, far away look on his face. No matter how many years he had been away from the area, there was no mistaking that this little corner of the world was always "home" to Daddy.
I never understood that nostalgia for "home" until recently. I grew up in Lawrence County, Kentucky and lived there all my life except for a six-year stint of living in Columbus, Ohio. Eighteen months ago, I came to live in Pike County, Kentucky. It was actually full circle for me, because I had been born in Pike County but having left so young I had no memory of the area.
At first the transition was difficult. I didn't know anyone except my new husband and his mother and I didn't know how to find my way around. I felt out of step and out of my element.
I stayed home a lot. I missed my elderly mother and my brother and his family who still lived in Lawrence County. And I missed seeing my sister and her family when they came in from Columbus to see our Mom.
Slowly, I begin to make friends and find my niche in my new/old hometown. I admit I still get lost occasionally but that's mostly that's because I have no geographic bearing. I have a new job here and my son is doing great in school and will graduate from a local high school in a few months.
All of this made me think about the concept of "home". This IS my home now. I'm happy here. I have a full, rich life here. But every now and again I do think back to something I once knew as "home" and I feel the lonely stab of nostalgia that Daddy must have felt. But I realize that it's not so much a certain longitude or latitude, but rather, the memories that live in that space and time that make a place home.
I grew up in Lawernce County and I raised my son there and so the memories of both our childhoods live there. Memories of times when my mom was younger and healthier and when my Daddy was alive and the family was intact live in that place. That is what I miss. Not the certain point on the map, but how that time felt. It was home.
Of course now, I'm making new memories. My son will graduate from here and this is the home he will return to when he visits from college. And my sister and her family are making new memories by visiting here.
Still I understand the longing in my Daddy's eyes. Those places here in Pike County were where he spent his youth and young adulthood. It was where he made a place for himself in the working world and where he married my mother. It was where he started his family. It was the place and time in his life where he felt alive and strong and all the world was out in front of him. By the time he moved to Lawrence County, he had become disabled from epilepsy and he felt defeated and broken. No wonder his eyes always grew misty whenever he thought of "home".
I never thought much about it before, but something inside me makes me want to visit those places that I heard Daddy speak of so often. Something within me makes me want to walk where he walked and see if anything is left of the things he knew so long ago. I realize not much will have remained in fifty years, but to just be in the places that he loved, somehow might make me feel connected to him again.
I know that nothing will feel familiar to me, but then again, perhaps it will. Perhaps I will meet someone with the Surname Francis, or Hurley, Coleman, Daugherty, Stiltner, May, Allen, or Smith and there will be a familiarity about them. Perhaps, when I stand in those places where he stood and look out over what he was remembering all those years ago, maybe I will once again be able to see the look in my Daddy's eyes and this time I can whisper to him, "Now, I understand Daddy." "I understand what you heart was looking for all those years ago. Maybe through me, Daddy's heart will somehow be "home again"...and maybe, in some small, way... I will be too.
Picture owned and copyright by Geneva Coleman