Every few years I get the itch to go. I spend hours online planning a dream getaway with money I never have. I schedule it several months in advance thinking that by then I will stop my foolish spending so that I can actually go. I start keeping change instead of using it to buy PayDay’s from gas stations. I research the best places to stay and study all the reviews for the must-see sites. I bookmark and pin the landscapes of my dreams.
I used to think my life would only have meaning if it was in a constant state of motion. I’d use the term “I want to go so that I can find myself” instead of just stating that I thought travel made me better than everyone else. Later on I realized that always going meant always roaming with the same restless passenger who continually found fault in the people she so desperately wanted to meet. Yes, my baggage followed me everywhere like a duckling to it’s mama.
I’ve not lived in many places but I’m been blessed enough to experience some beautiful places for a couple weeks or so. New York, Colorado, Costa Rica, Sicily, and Ireland to name a few. And while I wouldn’t trade any of that because it was there when I needed it and shared with people I loved and grew to love-I’ll never forget staying up well past midnight playing hearts with a retired army soldier in his sixties and a favorite former pastor in Panama on a mission trip. Now, because of those treasured experiences, I have a deeper appreciation for the enchantment of home.
In the sixth grade at Saluda Middle School, we took a field trip to Myrtle Beach. I don’t remember the educational part of that trip but I’ll never forget what I learned.
It was the first time one of my classmates, Marvin, had ever gone anywhere thirty minutes outside of Saluda County. He was a quiet kid with yellow teeth. The kind of kid that you didn’t get close enough to because of the too human smell. Smells that separate classes of people.
My mama was the school nurse and a chaperone on the trip. Being who she is, she befriended Marvin early on. One thing she taught me-that I hope I’ve been successful at and made her proud of-is that no one is not there. Seeing someone you even slightly know without saying hello to them is being plain ugly and rude. Treating people like they are invisible altogether is one of the cruelest things a person can do.
When Mama found out it was Marvin’s first trip to the beach, she cried. I didn’t understand why and I’m sure I was embarrassed over it.
During whatever it was we were learning down there, we got a break that allowed us to go to the beach. It was cold so we couldn’t swim but when you’re young and at the beach temperature doesn’t really matter. Even if it’s forty degrees you still find a way to sweat.
Marvin sprinted on that beach like a retriever on a ball. He ran on that sand, prickly with shells, in his tennis shoes while the pockets of his black jacket flew behind him. Pure joy on his face and salty air in his chest.
I got it then.
Nothing would do but for my mama to take his picture and make him a picture frame covered with seashells when we got home.
I used to think that if I were in constant motion, always with a trip in mind, that my life was more valuable. That anywhere but home would allow me to grow in a way that was more appealing to others. Now, having gone and having had to stay home, this is the reality: Sometimes I want to go but I cannot. Therefore, I must find peace and contentment where I am.
There may be mountains more grand than the Blue Ridge that surround me. But they cannot compare to the flowers my mother doodles when she’s on the phone.
There may be rivers and waterfalls so frigid they take your breath away. But they cannot compare to drinking a glass of iced, sweet tea on my Meme’s front porch swing in the middle of June.
There may be parties and people that last for days but they cannot compare to an upside down kiss on the forehead from my husband while I’m at the table and he’s standing behind me.
Than a hot and sweaty run in the afternoon.
Than a blackberry latte’ at Figs in Anderson.
Than church ladies with purple hair who grasp both your hands when they greet you.
Than playing Settlers of Catan with our friends Doug and Rebekah.
Than the chrome formica tables and chairs at Juniper in Ridge Spring.
Than dogs who bark off back porches in the quiet darkness of night.
Than the hardwood floors to stomp on at River Falls Lodge.
Than statues of Jesus in the yard or the photograph, “Grace” by Eric Enstrom in the kitchen.
If you are always getting and always going then you don’t know real contentment. There is beauty in the still and the mundane. You just need to sit on the porch for awhile, a dog at your feet, good company be your side, and forget that time exists.
Even though I’m exhilarated by the going, I know I was made from and made for the small town.