I always felt envious of my friends who had grown up in the same place their whole lives. My dad lived in the same town from birth until he was 32 years old. All of his cousins and grandparents were there, and he knew everyone in town.
I lived in my dad’s hometown for the first two years of my life; then we moved. (That was when my dad was 32.) We moved again a year later, and again when I was 10. I managed to get through 6th through 12th grade in the same spot, and then went off to college. The summer after my sophomore year at Marshall, my parents moved again. They’ve moved four times since then. Now, 50 years after his first move, my dad says he’s never moving again. He and my mom have been in their current house for 11 years, which is longer than they lived together anywhere else.
I’ve lived in my current house for 9 years, which is the longest I’ve ever spent at one address. I’ve lived in the Daytona/Ormond Beach area for 18 years now, which is longer than I ever lived anywhere else, either at one stretch or cumulatively. I am very settled in here, in many ways, and I may never leave. But still, when I’m asked where I’m from, the first answer that springs to mind is not “Daytona Beach.” I usually say “Originally, or now?” Because the first thing that springs to mind is “Charleston, West Virginia.”
Before I came here, Charleston was where I had spent the majority of my adult years. When I was in that golden 6th through 12th grade period, we lived about 20 miles outside of Charleston, so that’s where we went when we went “to town.” I lived in Charleston from ages 23-28, and again from 29 – 31. The total was 7 years. Add to that two years in Morgantown, WV (the armpit of the Western hemisphere; sorry, Mountaineer fans); two years in Forest City, NC; and two years in Augusta, GA, and it brings you to 1991 and my arrival in Ormond Beach.
I’m reading Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes right now. I had somehow escaped reading it before, and I didn’t see the movie (starring Diane Lane; I’ll probably rent it now). I was at the Orange Co. Public Library for a meeting a few weeks ago, and found it in their used book store. ($1.50 – a bargain.) In the book, she talks about buying and renovating an old house in Tuscany in the early 1990s, and how much the house felt like home to her from the beginning. I love her descriptions of the house and the surrounding town and countryside. I wish I could write like that!
For me, it’s not the house. I’ve lived in too many houses; every house I’ve lived in has felt temporary to me. But your hometown is always your hometown.
There is a spot on I-77 (also known as the West Virginia Turnpike – now there’s a story) where you come around a curve and the Kanawha River valley opens up in front of you. A few miles later, you come around another curve, and the city of Charleston is laid out in front of you. There’s nothing particularly spectacular about either view (except for in the fall, when the leaves are at the peak of color – wow). There are many, many cities and river valleys that are much more attractive. But none of the others are mine.
I can’t say that I exactly miss living there – the winters are horrendous. I also doubt that I’ll ever live there again (although I’d never say never). But for better or worse, it will always be where I’m from.