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Not a Mile from Home

How far do you live from your childhood home? I moved from upstate New York to Arkansas when I was nine years old. Most of my family still lives in NY, and when I was a kid, I always thought I would go back there to live when I grew up. When I spoke of home, I was always referring to New York. We would go back home to visit my grandparents, to see my aunts, uncles and cousins. Home was where Mother was buried.

The differences between my old home and my new home were many. The plump, green spruce trees that dot the New York countryside were replaced with scraggly, slightly rusty cedars.  Instead of rich dark soil, the ground here is hard red clay.  Three feet of snow up home was just a good dusting, so the first time an inch of Arkansas snow sent me home from school early was mindboggling. The ubiquitous dairy farms of New York were replaced with the ubiquitous chicken farms of Arkansas.

I remember the kids in Mrs. Wald’s 4th grade class asking me to say words like ‘hang’ and ‘song’ so they could marvel at my accent, and my first boyfriend’s mom asking me not to talk so fast because she couldn’t understand me. I couldn’t understand how pin and pen were homonyms, but somehow these people’s strange accents made it so.

As the years passed, I became accustomed to life in Arkansas.  I adopted the local habits and speech, and even began to think of myself as a Southerner. I still thought of New York as home, though I came to realize, not unhappily, that my life would keep me here. When I moved to my house on the bluff overlooking the valley, I was surprised to realize that I could see my childhood home just below. As a matter of fact, it’s less than a mile from here as the crow flies. That’s when I understood that I was home, and home is where I will stay.

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