It's funny how Southerner's always say, "I'm going home," when they are going back to visit their family. I have always said this, no matter where I have lived. And I have lived all over this country! On both coasts, two great lakes, in the desert Southwest, and in the land-locked, sweet midwest. Tuscaloosa will ALWAYS be HOME...it IS HOME. I have heard the saying, "you can't go home again," but I beg to differ. Maybe some folks can't, but at least in Tuscaloosa I know it to be different. I have always been able to go HOME.
I learned this from my earliest memories. We moved to Oklahoma when I was 10 and we lived there for about 4 years. But we always went HOME for Christmas. HOME was Tuscaloosa and my Mother always said, all year long..."When we go HOME...." I knew what she meant, and from then on, no place else would ever be home....there was only one. We would load up the tiny toyota station wagon and head East then South with a car load of presents, and on a few occasions, puppies in diapers! Yes, puppies in diapers, with little holes my mother would cut out for their tales. The puppies were Christmas gifts and believe me it was not that fun to go 800 miles in a tiny Toyota with THREE stinky rambunctious puppies!!! Even in diapers! I specifically remember how nuts I would go knowing I was going HOME. It didn't matter that it was Christmas...I wasn't thinking of the presents. I was thinking of Tuscaloosa!! I would put on my Crimson Tide jersey and pack as fast as I could! The days leading up to the big trip were a frenzy so hypnotic, I was, as they say, already GONE! I was in such a place of excitement, without fail, every single year, as the time to leave grew closer, I would actually break out in hives!!! My poor mother would not only have the puppies to deal with, she had to always keep the calamine lotion handy and always find a motel with a bathtub for the baking soda bath! The "excitement hives" would disappear when we arrived at my grandmother's driveway...ahhhhhhhh HOME!
After I got married and began the gypsy life with my wanderlust affected husband, I always said to him, "I am going home..." He said, "Aren't you home already?" Poor, silly Yankee. He has never quite been able to grasp that HOME thing. He is sweet and says "I" am HIS home...I love that. I do. But still, at the end of the day, HOME for me is Tuscaloosa! Remember, I drove across the country pregnant, with morning sickness that lasted all day to make sure my only baby was born at HOME...Tuscaloosa! I don't really expect folks from other parts of the country to understand. But to a Southerner...well, I don't have to explain.
I was talking to a fellow Alabamaian the other day, Yes, there are a few other transplants out here in
LA LA land. She is from Birmingham. She said it's not the same for people from Birmingham. She explained that her other friends from Tuscaloosa are just like me....in the midst of a true, life-long love affair with our sweet home-town. She said it must be something about being from Tuscaloosa. Of course it is!!, I told her. It is a magical place. Only those of us in the little exclusive club who are from there know it's special secrets. And it just can't be explained. It has to be felt.
I can't wait to wander the old historic downtown again, filled with stories on every corner. And marvel at the growth and the newness. It inspires every part of me. I will gaze at the winding Warrior River and the misty liquid sunsets and the kudzu creeping and crawling over everything standing still. I am going HOME.
YES!!!...I am going home in a few days! No, I am not covered in hives, hopefully I have outgrown that, but the anxious excitement is overwhelming!! I can't sleep and the thought of the great food I will be eating has me salivating like no tomorrow! Especially for some REAL fried green tomatoes! Out here in LA LA land, they TRY to make fried green tomatoes, and I use that word TRY loosely...but they have never heard of corn meal here, so yeah....shoe leather is what's for dinner! I am always embarrassing my Yankee cause I offer to go back to the kitchen to speak with the chef...c'mon...it's a simple thing...corn meal!! I am seriously thinking of bringing back some Martha White and dropping it off to these folks with a note.
The excitement of The University of Alabama's Homecoming has me crazy! Just knowing I will be in Tuscaloosa for a football Saturday, Oh I can barely breathe!! The energy there on game day is electric. I actually feel sorry for people who don't get to experience this at least once in their lives. I swear it is like NO OTHER homecoming anywhere! Alabama Football is like no other FOOTBALL anywhere! I have been to other games. I speak with knowledge on this subject. There is nothing like my Crimson Tide!
I know Tuscaloosa looks different since the horrific tornado hit April 27th. I know it will hit me when I get there how the landscape will never look the same. I have prepared myself as best I can. And I am bringing tissues. But what I DO know, is that it will still BE the same. Because the spirit of this magical, one-of-a-kind place can never be broken. Even when the big bad wolf tries to blow us down, NOTHING can break the spirit of this most treasured place. It IS and will FOREVER be, HOME.
Maybe I can always go home, because truth be told, I never really left.