Back in 1971 I crossed my college campus while loud speakers blared a song across the quad. As I walked to class that day, I heard Country Roads for the first time.
It was one of those everyday moments holding more than just the everyday. A yearning welled up inside of me and spilled over into tears that slid down my cheeks. Take me home? What home?
My father was a career soldier and I lived many places in my childhood. I was born in Nuremburg, Germany and also lived in Texas, Louisiana, New Jersey, France, Georgia and Alabama. My father retired from the army when I entered the tenth grade and we moved to Columbus, Georgia. We lived there two years and then moved to Phenix City, Alabama for my senior year of high school. And then it was off to college. I never lived long enough in one place to consider it home. I had friends scattered across the country, but no close friends. Even my grandmother, aunts, uncles, and cousins were relative strangers to me.
That day on campus I wondered, how could a road take me home when I feel as if I had no home?
The closest thing I had to a “real home” was my aunt’s farm where my grandmother lived. Several generations of both sides of my family were farmers in south Alabama.
My roots were there, on a farm, in the country, in south Alabama. Yet it really wasn’t my home, never a place I had lived, only a place I visited. But I yearned for such a home as that—a place filled with friends, family and fellowship.
A few years later, after I first heard the song, I graduated from college and returned to Phenix City to find a job and to mend a broken heart. There, I found Christ and a wonderful church family. Yet, I still felt restless. I never felt it was my home, so I decided to make another move—this time to Montgomery, Alabama.
I received a job offer from a Christian school in Montgomery and was making plans to buy a home. And, then, my father died. I turned down the job offer to stay with my mother in Phenix City.
And, yet, I fretted. I wanted something else. Before my father died, he had bought 50 acres of land in the country, in south Alabama. I told my mother we could have a house built and move there. She agreed.
A year later the house was built. I had traveled down several times to apply for a teaching job, but no one was hiring. One superintendent told me if I had a job teaching I should keep it (in other words, stay in Phenix City). The state was struggling financially and unemployment rates were in the double digits.
We moved anyway. We moved to our country home where the sun rose over the pond and reflected the beauty of God’s creation.
She was fifty-six and I was twenty-six. We both looked for jobs. No one was hiring. She turned fifty-seven and I turned twenty-seven.
“We’ve got to leave—go somewhere we can find jobs,” she said.
“Wait. Just wait a little longer.” I didn’t want to leave. I had found my home.
The days ticked by and she became more insistent. Across the road from us was a gas station/country store. One day she stopped to buy gas and told the woman running the store we were leaving.
The woman told her son-in-law. Her son-in-law told his single brother. “You missed your chance. I told you to call her. Now it’s too late.”
His brother Carl thought, well, she’ll soon be leaving anyway, why not call? He called and asked to come over to meet me. I said sure. He did.
My mother and I stayed.
I married Carl two month after we met.
And, I often sing those words I heard forty years ago when I come home today, to my home, to the home God gave me, to the place I belong.
Carl with our granddaughter
Part of the: Check the sidebar for more great stories and thoughts on “Coming Home.”