We're in the middle of the season when we all celebrate home and family, whether we call it Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa or "Seasons Greetings.'' We sing songs about it, give gifts in the name of it and make up stories about how good it used to be.
"There's no place like home."
"Home is where the heart is."
"Home is where, when you go back there, they have to take you in."
I suppose all of that is true but I also recall what kids my age said about my hometown of Gainesville, Texas.
"Happiness is seeing Gainesville in your rearview mirror."
"Gainesville is a good place to be from."
"Gainesville is a good place to raise children."
Now that it has been almost 50 years since high school graduation, I'm mildly surprised to read comments of former classmates on the Internet's social media. Many of them still live in the town they used to want to flee. And I never knew how many wonderful hamburger and pizza joints that town had. They remember the names of the ladies who ran them and how delicious their homemade coleslaw was. I don't know about the place where I grew up, but I'd definitely like to go back to where they remembered living.
The odd thing is, as I put the pieces together, there's not much difference between Gainesville, Texas, and where I live now, Brooksville. Gainesville has held steady at a population of 15,000 and Brooksville had maintained about 7,000. Gainesville has tree-canopied streets just like Brooksville. Each one has more than its share of old homes and historical markers. I haven't talked to any teenagers about it, but I imagine just as many kids dream of moving away from Brooksville as my generation dreamed of getting away from Gainesville.
So why am I not so keen about thinking about Gainesville being my home sweet home, but I'm very comfortable about giving Brooksville that title? Maybe it isn't the town but the person. I am comfortable with who I am.
With my generation, at least, I think we kept moving around until we couldn't afford to move anymore. We didn't want to uproot the wife and kids while we chased an elusive home somewhere else or we finally got too old and sick to pack up and leave.
I wish I could say that it's the family — the people you love the most — which makes a house a home, but the cruel reality of life is that eventually death will separate us from our parents, our spouses and our children no matter how much we try to fight it.
Therefore, I suppose home is where you go when you close your eyes at night. Behind your lids it's just you there. Nobody else is there to help you relax, no one to sing a lullaby to you, no one to reassure you it's safe to fall asleep. Conversely, wouldn't it be terrible to be trapped at night with someone who didn't know how to smile, laugh or how open a door for a stranger?
If you can do that, then you've always got a good home, because if you can't be content with yourself, how will you be content with anyone else?
Jerry Cowling of Brooksville is a freelance writer and storyteller.