Years ago – a lifetime ago really – I left Versailles, KY with the idea that I’d never look back.
In fact, I swore, I would never come back to a high school reunion until I was rich, skinny and successful. I guess one out of three ain’t too bad…
As I drove away, I saw myself living in a city, in the middle of the action, scurrying about from one important meeting to the next being a busy, busy boss lady.
Versailles was slow. Versailles was country. Versailles meant horses and hardware stores and home cookin’.
Not that I didn’t love all of that, but I had spent much of my time growing up in our local library reading books about how magical everywhere else was. It made Versailles seem so much “less” than everywhere else.
So I left. And I lived in the city. And I made new friends. And I rushed around like my hair was on fire doing everything I could to squeeze in all that life had to offer me.
But when I needed a rest, or I wanted some peace, I came back home. I came back to the place where crickets sang me to sleep, and the moon set like a glowing flashlight over horse fields, and the most beautiful site to see was the view from my mom’s back porch.
When I got married, we moved to South Carolina where we could raise our boys in a smaller city that still had that hometown feel. Our kids thrived and grew into adventurous, kind and loving young men who held doors open for their girlfriends (and their mom), and said “yes, sir” and “no, sir” and “Thank you, ma’am”.
But still, when I wanted to feel at ease, we went to Versailles. When the stress got too much, or the pressures of work were overwhelming, or when I wanted to feel grounded, I went back home to the small town where people knew my name, where strangers smiled on the street corners, and where one of the best lunches in the county came from a drug store counter.
In South Carolina, we learned how to eat and talk Southern; how Kentucky wasn’t really part of the South; how hot is “really hot,” and what 3-5 inches of snow in the South really looks like. There were ups and downs transitioning into the Deep South. As a blue dog Democrat, I didn’t really fit into a solidly red state, but somehow I managed. And as a Kentucky girl educated in Ohio, I was placed solidly in that “You’re not from around here, are you?” category from the moment I crossed into the Carolinas.
But recently, I needed a soft place to land when things began to fall apart around me. I came back to the safest place I knew – my mom’s house in Versailles. And although it has been 30 years since I lived here, while nothing seems the same, everything seems familiar. The lightning bugs in June. The smell of fresh mowed hay. The sun that sets across the street from my Mom’s front door.
For a while, it felt like I didn’t I fit in – like I didn’t really belong to anywhere. I didn’t fit in in Cincinnati anymore. I wasn’t a part of South Carolina anymore. I wasn’t sure I’d ever fit in with all these familiar strangers in Versailles.
It wasn’t until I confided in a friend about how out of place I felt that I realized what home really means. She helped me see what a true blessing growing up in a small town like Versailles really is. When I said “I feel like I don’t belong here, like I don’t really fit in anymore,” she replied “You’ll always fit in here. You’re from here. It never left you, you just left it for a while.”
Maybe that’s why it always feels so safe – Versailles never left me. It was always here, waiting for me to come back.
And now, it seems, Versailles is so much “more” than all those places I ran away to.
It’s comforting to me, while my life is in such upheaval. It’s supportive of me. It’s empowering to me. It’s so much more than any place else I’ve ever lived.
And that’s a powerful thing to know, for me. That my hometown is here. That my family and friends are here. That my life as I once knew it is here. That, in truth, my home is here, and never left me, even as I wandered off to find myself in places I’d never been before. It was always here. It never left me.
And, in a way, I guess I never really left it either. It was always with me, no matter how far away I ran. And it always will be here – inside of me.
Damn, it’s good to be home.