In my novel ROSA NO-NAME, the lead character ponders several times about what “home” is. In regard to the title of this post, I might be pondering that same thing myself.
When I was a kid, from approximately eight to twelve, I lived in Durham, North Carolina. It never felt like home because I’d had to leave the only home I’d ever known when my parents and I lived in Farmville, Virginia. So, when we later moved to Norfolk, it was a relief.
My wife and I drove back yesterday from the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in western North Carolina. Just as we’d done going to the conference, we skirted Durham on Rt. 85. I usually just casually think, “I used to live here,” but yesterday I started remembering some of the things I hadn’t thought about in years.
Even at that early age, Duke University played a role in my life. My father used to take me to a barbershop at Duke for our hair cuts. No idea why. I remember a fountain outside that building, one that we could frequently see a rainbow inside or through. (Okay, so I’m a little hazy on details.)
Although I wasn’t big on admiring flowers, my parents liked to visit the extensive gardens at Duke, and even though I wasn’t very interested in Handel’s MESSIAH then–I’d love to go back to that now–they took me to a presentation of that work every year. I may not remember the music, but I recall being fascinated with those huge columns inside the Chapel.
I recall walking to my elementary school and passing by a little neighborhood store–anybody remember when there were still a number of those around? I recall one day when a bigger kid across the street from me yelled an obscenity at me. I was too naive to know what he was talking about.
I can’t forget how big a part tobacco played in Durham. Our next-door neighbor even used it to fertilize his lawn. Although I think unsmoked tobacco sometimes has a pleasant smell, I hated playing outside and having to smell that every day.
Speaking of tobacco, one of our church members gave my father and me tickets to attend some very special, tobacco-related yearly show. The actor who played Joe Friday’s sidekick on Dragnet was an entertainer that year. I had to ask my father the meaning of a vulgar joke he told.
Durham wasn’t all bad. The problem was my inability at that stage of my life to adjust. Being put on the safety patrol and going with that group to Washington, DC, were two of the better parts of my life there.
Home, though? It still didn’t seem like it. Would I like to go back and visit sometime? Maybe. If I can forget the worst of the past.
Thanks for letting me journey a bit through the past today. If you have comments, I’d love to have you share them.
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