leaving home

I’ve never been able to grasp the concept of moving out of a home and just leaving it, permanently. The idea sits right outside the edge of basic rationale, despite the fact that it’s just a thing we all do. I’ve lived in four houses with my family (nine homes total, if you count dorms and apartments I’ve rented). Every one of the four houses was a home. Sure, it was just a physical space, but it was our physical space where we lived and breathed and fought and laughed and learned. They were spaces where we became people instead of just humans.

The first home I lived in was on Joel Court. We were the first owners, but it was only my first home. I was born there. If you want to get technical, I was born at a nearby hospital, but you know what I mean. I lived the first 8 years of my life there. It’s the home where I learned to walk and talk. Molly, my first dog, lived in the backyard. When I was still small enough Molly didn’t mind when I attempted to ride her. Joel Court is where I learned how to shoot a granny shot, then an actual layup. Joel Court is where my older brother used to run into my room and climb in my giant bed with me because he was scared of lightning and thunder and didn’t want to be alone. Joel Court is where the same brother later spent an afternoon playing every Beatles album he could find and teaching me everything he knew about the British invasion. Honestly, he probably didn’t know much, but I do remember being fascinated by ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’. Joel Court is where we’d put on socks and “skate” on the hardwood floors. It’s where I learned how to ride a bike. It’s where I got so frustrated trying to learn how to ride a bike that I shouted at my parents “IT’S FINE! I CAN JUST ROLLER SKATE EVERYWHERE… FOREVER.” I had my first sleepover in the playroom of that house. I remember when I became old enough that they replaced the teddy bear wallpaper in my room with something more suitable for a growing girl. We left there when I was 8, which at 26 seems so young, but I’d already begun becoming who I am at 8 and that home was a part of it.

(joel court. you can’t even see the house anymore. that giant green tree was much smaller when we left in 1996)

We lived on Stablegate Drive for an even shorter time, though this fact still blows my mind. This is the house that I will always consider my real childhood home… I think. We were the first owners here, also. It was ours. We watched the construction of it. I sat on the balcony outside my unfinished room and named all the reasons this house was going to be cooler than the last. We were there when Hurricane Fran made a surprise inland trip and battered Raleigh. Our home was new and our power lines were buried. We lost nothing… but many of our friends in Raleigh took straight shots. This home is where my parents taught me what it really means to get out and help people when they need it. Stablegate is where I lived my middle school years. I had friends in the neighborhood who were close to my age. The neighbor two doors over put in a pool during our last summer there. I remember listening to P!NK and Avril Lavigne on her outdoor speaker system while taking turns diving into that pool. That home is where I learned that pets don’t live forever. We said goodbye to Molly on the back porch. We were there when both of my older brothers grew up and left home. We stood in the front entry of that house and gave teary-eyed hugs to Scott before sending him off to the Marine Corps. Stablegate was our last home in Cary.

(stablegate drive, man.. those trees are bigger too)

I struggle with home. Not as much now as I used to, but I find it difficult to answer “where are you from?” I lived in Cary, NC until high school and I spent several years after that promising to return as soon as possible. Now I’m here in the place I never wanted to be… and I’m not sure I want to leave. But there’s always this nagging feeling that soon I’ll have lived here longer than I lived in Cary and it will somehow change my identity. So for now, I’m from whichever Carolina is most convenient to current conversation.

When we moved to Liberty, SC we took what seemed like roughly 473 steps down on the standards of living scale. Part of this due to the fact that moving meant facing the reality that I was still the only child left at home. The other was the green carpeted, very outdated parsonage home we rented while building our actual home on the farm. I’d like to not even count this home, except that things happened there. We ended up spending two years in that home. We lived there when my grandparents moved in. It’s where I learned to drive… where I drove right into the pole in the middle of the carport, scraping the back passenger side door all the way in. This is where I lived when I first became this tall. An awkward in-between house that mirrored my stage of life at the time. Apple Drive wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was then, but 16 year old girls can be a little dramatic.

There’s a big white house on top of a hill out in the middle of nowhere in Pickens County. It’s the house I go home to for holidays. It’s where my mom, dad, mamaw, papaw and I all moved together. It’s where I celebrated winning a student council election and homecoming queen. It’s where I was picked up for two proms. It’s where I got my college acceptance letters. It’s where all the adults in the house made me feel like every big thing in my life was the best big thing that had ever happened… and for whatever it’s worth, that’s the only highlight I found in living as the only child at home. We lost Papaw suddenly and unexpectedly here. We lost Mamaw seven months, to the day, after. I’d always been afraid of living in a home where someone died, but that’s different now. The farm is where I learned the real value of living off the land. I buried a dog there. I swam in the creek there. It’s where I moved when I was in between college and a job. It’s the home I hope we’ll be able to keep in the family for generations long past any I’ll get to meet.

(current home.. and the place where i feel the most at peace)

I’ve moved more times since then than during my entire childhood, which I guess is pretty normal. I spent four good years living with various close friends in Charleston. We had the years in “the penthouse” on Bull Street with the roof we weren’t supposed to climb on, but always did anyway. We had the year on Vanderhorst street in the house that was somehow built on a tilt. God forbid, you spill a drink on the right side of the room, it’d be on the left faster than you could grab a paper towel. None of those houses were really “home” for us, and dozens of college kids have probably lived there since, but if I had a chance to climb back on the roof of 11 Bull just one more time to sit and laugh with my favorite girls, I’d do it right now.

Houses are just the right combination of wood, nails, sheetrock, bricks, siding, etc. as required by law and contractor standards. I know that. Logically, I get that they’re not meant to be forever. Hell, people’s homes get ripped to pieces all the time by various disasters. I’ve just never been able to grasp the concept of voluntarily leaving your very own combination of  bricks and wood when it’s the place you became a person. I don’t understand it and I probably never will. But every time I go to Cary I cut down Stablegate Drive and see the god-awful giant Duke Blue Devils sticker stuck to my old bedroom window and I know, for certain, that some things change despite my inability to understand.

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