When I first joined Facebook, I left the question about ‘hometown’ blank. To me, your hometown is the place where you are born and grow up and return to decades later for heartwarming family reunions (I love the thought of all that…)
But while I’ve enjoyed many family reunions in different pockets of both the UK and America where family ties remain strong, none of these places would qualify as my true hometown.
Today, I live at the ‘Animal Farm’ with hubby and Aspie D. It being true, home is where the heart is, it is certainly never truer for me than when my family gathers together no matter where we are geographically. But the town in which I live is not my ‘hometown’.
In meeting new people, I love to learn about their family roots, but when I’m asked where I’m from, I never know what to say. Surrey? Suffolk? Family ties to either place disappeared decades ago.
The constant in my life was when my grandmother lived in the same flat in Chichester in West Sussex for thirty-five years: visiting her always felt like a homecoming, but I have not been back since she died thirteen years ago. The place would seem empty without her, even though it is a beautiful city.
So then I think of America. I wasn’t born and bred there like my own children, but in many ways, I ‘grew up’ in California through almost twenty years of a big chunk of my life from my mid-twenties on.
My years spent there bringing up my children gave me a happy home with them.
But homesickness rolled through me like the pull of the tide when I missed my English family so terribly. Visits back ‘home’ filled me with excitement, but then came the dreaded goodbyes once again: floods of tears at the airport and promises to ‘visit again soon’.
Those forces of a true, physical, homecoming are powerful indeed. Wrapped in the arms of a someone so loved and missed, revelling in the delight of your ‘at last!’ arrival, makes for the best kind of celebration.
Every precious moment from then on milked for all it’s worth, enlarged and sharpened as if viewed through a magnifying glass, or shot through a prism with vibrant, bursting clarity. Humdrum, everyday life seems so far away. For a short while.
Now my homesickness is of a different kind, one I think will never leave, for wherever I live, I will always miss someone so dear, and always think of days long gone. Yet the boundaries of distance and travel and communication are easier to cross than they have ever been, and I am so thankful for my family and friends on both sides of the ocean.
But when I look out across the shining sea, I feel that tug like the tide, ebbing and flowing across my heartstrings and I remember my Californian October; the cooling season of Fall after months of stifling heat, of upcoming Halloween festivities and of meeting friends for tea and planning children’s birthday parties.
And then I smile for all that is now, for my home and all that has brought me here. In fact, thinking of it, I think I’ve just found my answer to that question about ‘hometown’. Of course, I’ve known it all along – the answer is: ‘Today’.
Charli has just returned from a homecoming week spent at her husband’s family’s ‘Wolf Ranch’ (isn’t that a great name?) in Nevada, her first family reunion in over a decade.
Thus, she asks us this for her September 30th flash fiction prompt:
‘In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a return to home. What does it mean to return? Is it to reconnect, discover or let go? It can be a town, house, farm, castle or ruins. It can be a country or family, one of origin or one adopted. What does the return impart?’
This is my first ‘flash’ in a while, so to speak. Not at all what I had in mind originally, but then sometimes coming home isn’t always what we expect…or want…
There they were, the same steps leading up to the same doors. She shivered as a gust of wind scattered dry, brown leaves across her boots.
And then she saw him, talking to a bouncer, a drunken rabble gathered by the steps as ‘Stairway to Heaven’ riffed through broken windows.
Thirty years a ghost and still she couldn’t slay him.
“You alright Miss?”
She gasped and turned to the creased face of the caretaker.
Silence again. Nobody but her and the faded church sign swinging in the wind,
but she hadn’t come home for a bible lesson.