The words of my eight year old daughter as we drove into the parking lot in Pine Knoll Shores. We’re home! Her gleeful words reflected the thoughts that had cleansed my mind free of education nonsense and reminded me where my heart is rooted. It’s not the where as much though, as the why. My parents have had a condo since I was just five years old and so, for the family that switched houses every few years, it has been the constant.
It’s nothing fancy. It’s not on the ocean though you can see the shards of blue if you stand on tiptoe on the top deck. Nearly each summer, for the past thirty or so years, I have called it home. In the early days, the first ten or so years, we were six. My grandparents, parents, and my brother and me. Two to a bedroom and many a family dinner on that deck. Our cousins were just a few miles down the road and so, that made eleven on the small nineteen foot Mako that transported the lot of us to Cape Lookout or Shackleford on calm days. My brother is entrenched in this place and I can hear his laughter through the voices of my own children and remember the first dunk in the cold sea come summer. Memories of family are what define home.
Isn’t that how it is? It’s not the place, those four walls that house people making memories and building relationships. It’s the people, people related through blood and the family built on pillars of proximity, friendship and sometimes, even grief. Our family was the second in this small village to lose a son and just a few years ago, we lost a young father too. Coming home means acknowledging pain, entering without knocking, sausage balls, offering silence and hugs, warm teasing and shouts of glee at the sight of an old asphalt parking lot.
We’re home, she said. Yes, we are.