Sometime toward the end of this month, barring any unforeseen developments, my house will be sold.
Well, it’s not actually my house. It’s my parents’ house. To say it’s my childhood home isn’t accurate, either, because my family moved from that when I was 16.
This one is a mile down the road from there, across the road from my Pop and Granny’s house. It once belonged to my great-grandmother, Laura. When she died, my Pop rented it for a while, before my parents bought and remodeled it.
It’s beautiful, bucolic, calming. It is also in the middle of nowhere, with just Daddy’s cows for company.
My parents have moved a couple of times since I left home, but the cows always stayed, standing sentinel by the barn where I can still see my Pop walking in his work boots. We rented it for a while to folks who knew to expect Daddy’s truck at the barn on a regular basis. We always had some reason to maintain an attachment.
I always had a way back to the creek that runs below the house. The steady beat of the flowing water is a sound I conjure up when I need peace. My seat on the big rock protruding from the bank is where I thought about just about everything and not much of anything for 26 years.
A lot has changed. My grandparents haven’t been in the house across the road for longer than I care to remember, even though I still expect the phone that hangs just outside what was my upstairs bedroom to ring with Pop calling me to come eat dinner – the Southern word for lunch – like he did every afternoon when I was home from college. I have owned and sold a house myself. I have lived different places and been different people.
The creek always waited for me, though, nonplussed in its eternal rhythm. The water, flowing under Highway 11 from the small creek in front of Pop and Granny’s house, widening on its approach to a mini-waterfall and breaking over a scattering of rocks, listened without judgment to whatever problem I carried with me. It seemed sympathetic, but blessedly silent. It did not offer solutions; rather, a kind of absolution, if I sat still long enough.
The cows are gone now, moved to other land Daddy owns. The gate to the pasture above the dog lot stands open, the clumps of patchy grass empty.
I go over there three or four times a week, while I still can. I fit my key in the back door. I open the windows in the front-porch office so I can hear the creek. I write for a while, then I walk around. I take pictures. I visit with the comfortable ghosts of well-loved dogs and cats, including the newest one who arrived with me three weeks ago. I go to the creek.
Today, I sit with my parents in the new house, the one in Town. We’re watching basketball, the ACC tournament. I hope it turns out better today for my mother’s Tar Heels than it did last night for my daddy’s Clemson Tigers.
We’ve watched basketball in a succession of houses in the Upstate, in Columbia, in the Lowcountry, on the Grand Strand. We’ve watched in Virginia and Florida. Sometimes we’ve been in the same place. Sometimes the back of my head has been spotted on press row. Sometimes we text our happiness and frustration – communication that, for my family, serves the same purpose as “Hi, how are you?” or “Thinking about you” – from three states away.
When my house sells, I won’t be from anywhere. But home will, to some extent, always be where the hoops are.