The following was written in December 1995. At that time my wife, Mimi, and I had lived in Brunswick for 14 years after moving around the country for a very long time. We are very happy to have made Athens our home since 1998.
I have heard that there are many languages that do not have a word for “home” that is distinct from “house” or “abode.” I am glad that English does. It’s definitely a warmer, safer or at least more familiar place to be.
Mimi and I spent a week in the frozen North, where we were born and raised, and where much of our family still resides in the suburbs of New York City. New York City is a hip and happ’nin’ place—so cool they had to name it twice. If you leave for a season, you return a stranger. We have been away for many seasons, and, yes, it is stranger. My kin had to remind us of all of the caveats of survival once again: If on foot, avoid eye contact, keep walking (the predators always go for the slow, feeble and infirm lagging at the rear of the pack); don’t gawk; don’t wear big, dangly earrings in the subway (handles for muggers); and never stop to look at a map or ask for directions. When driving, don’t signal for lane changes or look over your shoulder. It only alerts the cabbies to close rank on either side.
I will add to this a personal warning to avoid the time-space-warping-wormhole that surrounds the George Washington Bridge. It sucks the unwary into its vortex and slings them out into northern New Jersey or Harlem, depending on randomly changing factors known only to itself.
Photo Credit: Marisa Mustard
The language was at least familiar. I will be the first to admit that a Bronx accent is not, by most objective standards, the most mellifluous of tongues, but it is the language my youth—excuse me, make that “my yoot”—and it is dear to my heart. The utterance, “Oi was jus’ gonna make a fresh potta cawfee. Can I getchez some?” is not only readily understandable, it speaks to me comfortingly of home.
In 1995, deep in the heart of Manhattan, there was a haven in the apartment of our daughter and son-in-law. With their guidance, we were able to sample the incredible variety of stores and eating establishments within a block or two of their home. We enjoyed a different ethnic food style each day and night for our stay, including that of one group so new that National Geographic has yet to include them in their directory of “Who’s Where.”
The focus of our visit was, of course, spending time with our relatives. We drove the saner Currier and Ives hillsides of Cooperstown, NY to visit Mimi’s family (and yes, there is a lot more there than the Baseball Hall of Fame).
Later, we spent the day before Christmas in the joyfully rollicking chaos of my gathered kin. In both places, and in quieter regroupings throughout the week, beyond the warm hugs at the door, subtle details said, “It’s good to be home again.” My grandmother’s teapot, my mother’s “good china,” my brother-in-law’s laugh, my sister’s smile on the face of her children, the arch of my nephew’s eyebrow that I recognized from my own mirror, the eyes shared by my wife and daughters and the overall sense of belonging were an affirmation of “home.”
We have lived in Brunswick for about 15 years. We tended our garden and gradually molded our house to our taste in that time. A new family of friends has grown around us and embraced us. Our Brunswick family has developed its own shared history, internal intrigue, sets of smiles and delightful idiosyncrasies.
The return takeoff from New York was amid the sort of slush gray that settles in after the leaves have fallen and lasts until spring. Circling Jacksonville, the verdant green in late December was a welcome sight. Leaving the airport, it was nice to re-calibrate the agresso-meter to the Southern Grace setting. We stopped at Denny’s. As visions of sleeping in my own bed danced in my head, a waitress cheerfully approached, looked me square in the eye and drawled, “Ah was jes fixin’ ta make a frayish potta cahfee. Kin I git y’all some?”
It’s good to be home again.
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