You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place, I told him, like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again. — Azar Nafisi

This is the last Labor Day in which I will wake up in my hometown. All of my life, Shelby was a place I could return to. Soon I will drive away, my parents gone, my life a memory, and oh the wonderful memories that I keep. So much of who I am was influenced by the town and the people I loved. I remember visiting my grandmothers in Arden and in Sylva when I was a little girl. We would drive back down the mountains, and once we passed the turn to Dover Mill and then crossed the bridge and climbed the next hill, I would see the J.L. Suttle Insurance Company sign welcoming people to Shelby. Every time, I would say excitedly, “We’re Home!” and deep inside, I felt it. This is where I belonged and I knew it.

Today, I walked out to the car at my mom’s condo with my two dogs in tow, Maggy and Atticus and I heard a “toot toot”. I looked at my son and said “What’s going on?” Horns kept blowing. I thought maybe a hurt animal was lying in the road, maybe a dog, a cat, maybe a deer. So we got in the car, and headed for Marion Street. As I drove away, just like every other time, I imagined my beautiful mom standing by the garage, waving goodbye. Her face happy with a slight wash of sadness. I would drive away with that feeling in my stomach, so much love and yet a melancholy wondering, how much longer would her big, big heart last for me. This gift, was the one I treasured most. But this was a different day, and my mom now a ghost, a memory, and I was now heading west on Marion Street.

On the right hand of the street were two boys standing near the side of the road. A lawnmower stood by idly on the half cut lawn. They stood side by side with these almost laughing expressions, mischievous at best. Suddenly, a car was about to pass them and simultaneously, the two boys raised their right hands and pretended to pull a truck horn. As if by magic, the car honked his horn not once but twice. They belly rolled and gave the high five and waited for our approach. They sent us the message, and we obliged. I laughed, and told my son, “Something about this, this antic from my childhood, gives me hope for humanity.”

For some reason, maybe the faces of these boys, made me remember the Sundays my mom would go to church to sing in the choir, and my sister and I would stay home with my dad. We would sit in front of the TV and watch Fred Kirby and The Little Rascals. I loved the episode where they had the fancy club. The gang was all dressed up, and it felt so grown up. I wondered how they were able to do all that. The clothes, the building, the band…it was too good to be true. But later that day, I pretended I was there, at the club, dressed up and so grown up. A little past noon, right after church, mom would pick up fried chicken at The Little Mint across the street from the church. After she returned home she would fix mashed potatoes and green beans. We would sit at the kitchen table and just laugh and talk. Life felt easy, predictable, my childhood was anchored.

I traveled on and passed Timberland Drive, and I gazed towards the Rose’s old house. It felt like a second home. Patsy and Jim were so warm and welcoming, they gave me another safe place where I could be myself and grow. As I slowed the car, I could envision me and Liz on her mini bike, hair blowing in the wind. We owned our tiny world, and it felt much like a fairy tale. The days we could just roam, do nothing, but dream and plan. It was a freedom I cannot explain.

I went on down the road, and turned up Spring Garden Drive, the street where I grew up. I slowed at my old house. The boxwoods were still in the front beds, and maybe the fruit trees my dad planted in the front. He had so hoped for big red juicy apples, only to find they were small and the birds devoured them. All the animals I loved are buried there, I have imagined through the years they must have wondered where I am. I am sure I will find them again on the other side. Everything that mattered to me happened in this house. I can still remember walking in the front door, letting it slam, and yelling, “Mom, I’m home.” Home…it was. It truly was.

I could drive and drive around this town. My feet have been everywhere. Everywhere I look there were moments I was there, before I grew up and moved on. In my mind, Shelby was consumed with energy. Uptown was bustling with stores, and shops, restaurants and offices. For every season it looked the part. In every store, back in the day, I knew someone. They knew my name and who I belonged to. It was a certainty in my life to.know the roadmap of my existence, the faces I knew, the familiar voices that called my name and I would always say “I’ll be right there.”

Everything has changed, and some things never change. I recognize few faces, there are new stores, and a different energy. None the less, the roadmap remains, and I feel so lucky to call Shelby my old hometown. Times have not been kind to small towns, but they persist. We live in a different time. Life does not feel carefree. But there is always hope, and on this last Labor Day in Shelby, I felt a twinge of sadness. I leave my old life here. Everything that raised me. I feel so lucky, and in my luck I know none of it was random.

But why had he always felt so strongly the magnetic pull of home, why had he thought so much about it and remembered it with such blazing accuracy, if it did not matter, and if this little town, and the immortal hills around it, was not the only home he had on earth? He did not know. All that he knew was that the years flow by like water, and that one day [we] come home again. — Thomas Wolfe



If life steers you into a dead end road, and you are trying to find your way, skip the GPS, take the road with no traffic. Founder studiO, early morning poet.

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Patty Brown

If life steers you into a dead end road, and you are trying to find your way, skip the GPS, take the road with no traffic. Founder studiO, early morning poet.