Can I go home again?
Gosh, what a question. Sometimes I feel like I am asking that question with every breath I take. Less so now, maybe, than when I was younger. But it is one of the ones that floats there in my belly, next to “Does anyone really care what I have to say?” and “Is it possible that I’m actually amazing?” Ha.
In college, everyone knew where I was from because I talked about it all the time. Kentucky. Home. I missed it so much, it oozed out of my stories, my clothes, my jokes, my affections. There was some patch in my identity with that label on it-- KENTUCKY-- and without being there, I wasn’t myself. I couldn’t be understood.
Home was where I could disappear with a book and not worry about what I might be missing out on, what else I should be doing. It was where I stretched out under the bright stars over the farm and asked questions without worrying about answers. It was where I wasn’t all that nice when I didn’t want to be. It was the place I loved the most and most desperately wanted to leave.
My feelings about home evolve every time I return. It makes every homecoming surprising. I stand in the bedroom where I grew up now and I don’t recognize the feeling I have. It is very clean and organized and cogently decorated, when I never was that way. It has the feeling that no one has been there.
At my mother’s house, there are new pictures of me in frames decorated with birds. In Arizona, my father has picked out bird artwork, too. I have flown. I don’t come back often. I don’t know how. I picture my mother entering my old bedroom every so often to dust, and I feel the pang of not calling enough, not visiting enough. I sleep there when I go, on cool, soft, beautifully smooth sheets, but I don’t linger in the room. I can’t.
I am nervous when I am home. I need structure, and plans. I arrange dinners, lunches, coffees, walks, tea, talks, movie dates, shopping dates with neighbors, friends, cousins, aunts, the girls I used to babysit. I love them all so dearly. This now, for me, is Kentucky.
Lucy Hester is a writer living in Richmond, VA.