Until yesterday when we took it down and fit it neatly into a cardboard box, a sign hung over my kitchen sink. Home is where your story begins.
For me, home and story have been irrepressibly intertwined ever since I ventured outside my journal and started typing away at the keyboard to give voice to my childhood dream. More than a writer—I want to be a storyteller.
This little house we’ve lived in for ten years on the outskirts of Clarkesville, two miles from the school my kids love, about four from the school where I taught—and learned a few lessons of my own—helped me find my story. Here at a perpetually sticky kitchen table, I blogged and wrote some fiction and said yes to my novel contract. In the most literal way, my story began here.
But stories are more than a beginning. They start before the first word bleeds onto the page.
That sign, plucked from a booth at the Old Mill years before I embraced the calling of a writer, reminds me where my words find nourishment. My roots come from all the places and people who have shaped me—and home is defined as more than four walls and one zip code.
We traveled last week to Edisto Beach, South Carolina. Lowcountry humidity and shell-strewn shores and sand sticking to every crevice. I chatted with the locals there in the coffee shop and buying produce at the roadside stand. They open up, not when I tell them I’m writing a series of books about this place, but because I tell them about my mama who was raised on a tobacco farm in Colleton County and still has friends who troll Edisto’s waters and call it home.
My heritage lets me be local—even if I only rest my head there for seven days out of the year.
My parents still live in the same house they built in 1996 atop a hill in Elbert County. On Friday nights, when I hear the football stats, my heart still bleeds a little of that blue and silver for the boys under the Granite Bowl lights. I don’t get back down Highway 17 too often, but when I do, people look me up and down and call me by my maiden name. Elberton will always be the place that grew me up.
We ran over to Rome a few weeks ago when one of my favorite professors retired from Berry College. My husband and I walked under the shadows of the old campus and reminisced with our friends. Next time we return, that old theater where we met and spent our days will look different. I wonder, though, if it won’t still feel the same.
Community happens, not only when we share the same town or county, but when we give ourselves over to the places we cherish. No matter what my zipcode says, Clarkesville will always be one of my homes.
A place where one of my stories will always begin.