You can’t go home. It’s not just a cliché. I’ve tried. However, going back to the geography of my roots proved to have a powerful allure all its own.
As I drove away from Richmond and towards Prince Edward and Lunenburg counties on Monday, more than just the topography changed. As the miles progressed, years rolled away, returning me to the car rides of my childhood. As the same (or similar, I’m not really sure) roads cut through the same wooded hillsides, my senses went into full-immersion recall of countless car rides during the 60’s and 70’s. It looked the same, smelled the same, and felt the same. I remembered the anticipation of seeing relatives, the flickering of the mid-afternoon sun through the trees, the rolling of the hills and the responding flip of my stomach, and the freshness of the air. My memory came alive, like an onion whose dry, opaque outer layers had been removed to reveal the fresh green center.
I drank it in, relishing the child-like freedom I rediscovered. The heart-wrenching duties of being an adult were paused—there would be time for the funeral home, greeting relatives I hadn’t seen in decades, and the burial itself. A deep connection to this countryside—the area in which eight generations of my ancestors settled, married, farmed land, raised children, buried parents, turned old, and died—resonated deeply within me. Visitor that I was, I belonged. As part of my heritage, the land with rolling meadows, red barns, funny road names, crumbling tobacco “drying sheds,” and acreage to spare offered itself up as a second home.
This wasn’t what I expected to feel. My mother’s brother had succumbed to liver cancer. As he died, I felt that one more connection to my mother, gone fifteen years prior, had also slipped away. Somehow, even before I was reunited with a single family member, simply being there became my balm.
I’m not sure how that happens, but I am grateful.
© Laura Hedgecock 2013