You Can Go Home Again

Gwen - North Little Rock, Arkansas
Entered on August 22, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: community, family

I believe you can go home again. I believe it because I did it.

In 1989, my husband of nine months and I left Little Rock, Arkansas, and moved to Nashville, Tennessee. We moved for opportunity: We believed – rightly—that Little Rock would soon have a glut of unemployed journalists. We found jobs in Nashville and set up housekeeping. We learned to be married and to be homeowners and to be parents.

We were content in Nashville, but every few months I would ask Rob if he thought we would ever move back to Arkansas. We lived in Nashville for 10 years, and for most of that time I felt like I was just visiting.

When we finally were offered a chance to come home again, it took months for us to make up our minds. I think we were scared. We weren’t mortgage-free, childless newlyweds anymore, and giving up what we had was risky. But we had never really planned to raise our boys 350 miles from the grandparents who had grown 10 years older during our sojourn.

We moved back to Little Rock in the waning days of the Clinton administration and found the city shell-shocked from the Whitewater experience. But we also found the same warm people and the slower pace that we had missed. (Around here, “traffic jam” means you are traveling slower than the speed limit.) The lower cost of housing made house-buying fun. Our favorite pizza place was still turning out the perfect crust. The schools I attended as a child seem just as nurturing and wholesome 30 years later. Every Friday night trip to a restaurant turns into a high school reunion, and a lot of those former classmates have gone away and come back, too.

A couple of years after our return, the Parkinson’s Disease that my father kept at bay for several years began to take its terrible toll. He ended up in a nursing home, but I was able to visit him almost every day until his death last November. During his illness, he told me – for the first time — that it had broken his heart when Rob and I moved to Nashville and that the day I called to say we were coming home was one of the happiest days of his life. Mine too.

Charles Portis, author of “True Grit” and (my favorite) “The Dog of the South,” wrote, “A lot of people leave Arkansas and most of them come back sooner or later. They can’t quite achieve escape velocity.”

Charles Portis and I just happen to be from Arkansas. I believe the same is probably true no matter where you call home.