I have been doing a lot of thinking about home lately. I have been in Atlanta for over twenty years now. It does not really feel like home to me. I like Atlanta. I am blessed that my parents, my sister, and other close family members live near. I have a bounty of wonderful friends here too. My child was born in Atlanta. My husband is crazy about this city, but Atlanta isn't really home to me. It is where I live, and don't get me wrong, I really like where I live. So, I asked myself, what is 'home'? Yes, sigh, it is where the heart is. Is my heart here? The man I love and my precious child are here. A huge part of my heart really is here in Atlanta, just not 100%. I can't put my finger on it. Maybe it is partially because I did not grow up here. Maybe too, it is because life has changed so much since growing up. I had a wealth of opportunities and experiences as a child and teenager living in Kansas City, then later in south Florida. I was always safe, even as I was sneaking out in the wee hours of the morning to meet the neighborhood kids. When I speak about feeling safe, I am not referring to crime, or feeling threatened. I just knew that when I came home, there was warmth, security and love. Those feelings are what cultivated that feeling of 'home'.
I lived in Prairie Village, Kansas from 1970 to 1979. I arrived at age 6, fresh from Lexington, Kentucky. My father had taken a position at Barstow School, a wonderful, private K-12 school. I started dancing that year to help correct my feet. I was born pigeon toed, and the doctor felt ballet lessons might help. It did. It kick started a life long love and appreciation for dance and theater. Living in Kansas City however, did more than start me dancing...Kansas City opened it's arms and surrounded me with support and love. My parents provided me with every opportunity, even though for a time, we were living off teacher's salary. I never lacked for anything. I was a busy kid, but my parent's were right there by my side. There were dance lessons, swim and tennis lessons, Girl Scouts, softball, and of course, there were long days at the pool each summer. I could be out at night, running barefoot in my neighborhood, until my mother called for me. I knew that the first call was my warning, and that if I was not home within 5 minutes of the second yell, I was in trouble. I always made it home. I went to school with the same group kids for nine years in Kansas. My mother was always waiting on me when I got home from school, and my father spent quality time with me when he got home from work. I felt safe. I was safe. Later in Florida, I danced with an amazing group of talented young women. We have shared experiences that bind us together even now, some 28 or so years later. My years in Florida are for another blog, but it is safe to say there were memories, good and bad, created with both family and friends that own a chunk of real estate in my heart.
I grew up in a different era. Children walked to school, came home for lunch, and never wore helmets to ride bikes. I was carefree, and maybe that is part of what I am missing now. Also, this is when my family was at it's happiest. We were a very loving, close and such a silly family. We are still very close (and still silly), but now I am partly responsible for taking care of my parents as they age and suffer through Alzheimer's Disease and Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. It is scary to face your parent's mortality, and again, maybe that is why I find myself longing for the Prairie Village home of so long ago. How often I have wish to go back to that simpler time and wrap myself in the arms of my young, handsome, healthy parents. What I would give to walk to Ridgeview Elementary School (knowing what I know now of course) once more and see the familiar faces of my friends. Then I could walk home from school at lunchtime and sit with my beautiful mother to talk about my day over a toasted cheese sandwich and tomato soup. My baby sister would still be a toddler and playing under kitchen the table. These are memories that I hold close to my heart.
I appreciate that parent's grow old and eventually leave us. If all goes the way it should, my son Dominick will take care of me in my old age and we will eventually have to say good-bye. That is sad, but also, it is the way it should happen. As a family, we are creating a sense of home for him. I wish for him memories of involved parents who gave him opportunities, believed in him, and invested in him emotionally. I hope for him that he feels safe, secure and that warm feeling will connect him to Atlanta - to his home. These memories are to be held dear. We are going to be living here for a long time, so this is indeed where the heart is. After writing the above, I realize that home is where your love is. My loves - Tim, Dominick, my step daughter Nicole, my Mom, Dad, sister Heather, and favorite Aunt Angel, are all right here. Right here in Atlanta. I need to treasure my past and open up my heart to the here and now, which is Atlanta. YES! Could it be? I never thought I would say it? Atlanta really is home (but so is Kansas City and South Florida)!