I’m sitting on my parents’ back porch in Cantonment, Florida. Cantonment is a little town just north of Pensacola (the city line between them runs in front of the rows of white picket fence that welcome you into my parents’ neighborhood).
This place is so home. I don’t think you ever really realize what HOME is until you leave it. Until you move far, far away from that little ol’ town you were trying desperately to escape. I loved this city, loved the cow pastures I drove by on my way to and from school every day. I loved that the beach and the country were separated by a twenty minute drive with the windows rolled down and my long brown hair a-blowin’. I loved that my whole family, anyone who meant anything to me, lived just miles apart and gathered for every major birthday, holiday, graduation day, summer day… I loved that this place had character and was beginning to really come into its own. I was thrilled to be a part of the new Pensacola.
And then there was him. That boy from Darryls – the place where I had my very first job. I was the innocent, sweet sixteen year old with a boyfriend. And he was the fraternity boy bartender with a crooked smile and a charm that could melt a ROOM. He lived in Tampa. So five years ago this month, I packed my house, kissed my Mama and Daddy, grabbed my little Boston Terrier, Harley Bogart and made my way down I75 to Tampa to be his wife.
I knew I’d come back to this place one day. We both did. We love it here. We just never realized how hard it would be to come back or just how much our hearts would miss our home. Bryan’s been in Tampa ten years and I’ve been in Tampa five. We spent our first five years of marriage there. We had our first little boy there. We made the best friends EVER there. Who knows how long we’ll live in Tampa. All I know is that when I’m in Pensacola… when I drive over Escambia Bay and see the cliffs of Scenic Highway, my heart settles into my chest and I feel myself come back to life a little. Thanks for the line, Carrie Underwood. Thank God for hometowns…. for the county lines that welcome you back in, when you were dying to get out.
Sitting here in my parents’ backyard, smelling the fresh rows of Confederate Jasmine my dad planted eons ago wrapping around the fence separating our acre from the next, I feel such peace. Isn’t it a wonderful feeling to be home. My childhood bedroom just steps away, still marked with the sticker I insisted should be on my light-switch, still guarding the secrets and the dreams I wished in those four walls. Oh God, thank you for the ones that came true. And thank you for those prayers that You guarded me from.
I’m so grateful to my Mom and Dad, married for more than 36 years now… for the way they’ve made this my safe place. I only pray I can do the same for Brady. It’s the best feeling – knowing you’re in the one place on Earth where everything is always just as it should be.
Image by our sweet friend, Michael, at Michael Newman Photography