Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Little Pieces of Home

It's not hard to realize that I'm from a very different place than where I live now. I grew up on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. There are only about 13 traffic lights from the Maryland state line to the Bay Bridge Tunnel and just now are they getting a Walmart. No Starbucks, no malls, no traffic, no buildings over four stories high (including the hospital). It's quiet, simple and underdeveloped at home. I grew up on 12 acres of field and woods with a creek that winds through my backyard and to the Chesapeake Bay. The home I lived in is well over 100 years old and three stories high. I know I could never live on the Shore again before retirement and be successful as there are no colleges to teach at. But I do now miss it. In high school I was so ready to be gone. It was boring to me then and everyone knew everyone's business. Those of you from small towns know exactly what I mean. But after undergrad, and now after graduate school I am starting to miss home. There is a stillness on the Shore that is lost up here in NOVA. Don't get me wrong, I do like it up here... but it's not the same. Everyone has places to go and things to do. I drive through 13+ traffic lights just to get to GMU. I can't even count the number I drive through to go to Woodbridge. I don't know my neighbors and I have no backyard. Home is a third story apartment that backs a drainage pond that I like to call a "lake." It's busy and prosperous and there are Starbucks as far as the eye can see. And I like it. I do. But sometimes, I ache for the quiet. I want to see familiar faces in my neighborhood.

This has often been my issue with being out here. It is so incredibly different. But then again, it isn't different at all. On days like today I can see little pieces of home peek through the facade of industry and progress. So today I drove home from Woodbridge and I took the back way through Old Clifton (about a 45 minute drive). A student from class recognized me on the drive and waved emphatically at me. It made me smile to see a familiar face for once. After getting further away from the traffic near DC, I made my way to the back roads. The back way cuts out lights and multiple lanes of pavement. It's a two lane, 40mph bumpy, windy road. There are FIELDS back there, and horses... annnnd 1.8 million dollar homes, but beggars can't be choosers. I can smell honeysuckle bushes along the ditches. It was glorious! I turned the AC in the Jeep off and cranked the windows down. I put some old Breaking Benjamin in the cd player and turned it up as loud as I could stand it! To top off the drive, I sipped on a $1.05 sweet tea from McD's. It was quiet and still... aside from Ben Burnley screaming through my speakers. ;) When I got home and got out of the Jeep, a breeze blew by me and rustled the few cherry blossom and dogwood trees in my complex. Petals flew all over the place and the perfume they made was heavenly.

I decided to take a second before going in and hopped up onto the burning hot hood of the Jeep. I laid back for a minute and just listened to the trees and felt 90 degrees burn into my pasty pale skin. Of course it wasn't like my old house where I could hear the sounds of the Bay and seagulls squawking. I heard a far off ambulance, kids hopping off a school bus, and some lame guy in his modified Honda Civic trying desperately to look "badass" in his "sports car." That's a post for a different day. But comparatively, it was quiet. It was still. Most everyone else is still at work so the parking lot is not full of cars for once. The sound of a very large motor made me open my eyes and hop off the Jeep. Driving by was a good ole' southern boy driving a jacked up 1990's Chevy Blazer with some rather large Micky Thompson tires. :) He tipped his camo hat at me and kept driving. The day was now complete. I saw a bonafide redneck up here and he politely said hello to me; a complete stranger. I grabbed my stuff and trudged up the stairs to my apartment where my cat was sitting by the door waiting for me just like my old cat Cleo used to at home on the Shore. Unlike here, I'd never lock the door behind me. But regardless of the differences: the people, the scenery, the animals, the sounds... it still has pieces that make me feel like I'm not so far away from home. And on days like today, it is almost perfect.