Going Home

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As I pulled in the driveway the other day, a song came on the radio and I immediately recognized Jon Bon Jovi’s voice. The song was called, “Who Says You Can’t Go Home.” I guess there are a couple of versions of the song, but the one I heard was a duet with Jennifer Nettles of the Country group Sugarland. As I listened to the lyrics, there was only one place I thought of – my hometown of Machias – a small town of about 2,100 along the coast of Maine.

Doesn’t matter where you are
Doesn’t matter where you go
If it’s a million miles away
or just a mile up the road
Take it in, take it with you when you go
Who says you can’t go home

I grew up an FAA brat. My father, a Pennsylvania native, met my mother while he was working as a radar technician in Bucks Harbor, Maine. They married four months later, my mother never imaging they would ever leave Machias.

My father around the time he and my mother met.

My father around the time he and my mother met.

I was born in Machias, as were my two brothers. We left, when I was a toddler, to move to Oklahoma. From there we moved to western Massachusetts, where I started grade school. We arrived in Peachtree City in the early ’80s. I attended both Booth Middle School (it was Jr. High then) and McIntosh High School. After four years in Peachtree City, we moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, where I graduated from high school. I was part of the largest graduating class in the state at that time, 721. I spent two years at UNC-Charlotte before transferring to the University of Nebraka, again following my parents. I was never crazy about Nebraska, so I hitched a ride back east to Pennsylvania in 1993 after I graduated and my father retired.

I found a job in Pennsylvania and worked full-time for four years while I pursued my master’s degree in library science on the weekends. Then it was back to Peachtree City, of all places, after I accepted a position at the library. I’ve been here eleven years this time around.

I’ve never known quite how to answer when people ask, “So where are you from?” I used to say, “Everywhere.” Or sometimes I’d just answer with the last place I’d been, “Pennsylvania.” But I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that I’m from Machias. Ok, so I didn’t live there very long. But that’s where my heart is.

"The gang" with our grandparents up at the lake.

"The gang" with our grandparents up at the lake.

It’s the memories that keep me there. We used to go back to Machias almost every summer to visit my grandparents. The best times were when our cousins, also transients (Navy), would meet us up there. It was perfect – my mother had two boys and a girl and her sister had two boys and a girl – so we always paired up. Half of us would stay at my grandparent’s house in town and the other half would stay up at “the camp” at a lake about ten miles outside of town.

My cousin, Jennifer, and I were only 3 weeks apart in age. We were silly girls. All we had to do was look at each other and we’d fall apart laughing. We had this effect on each other even as adults. Jennifer passed away in 2004 after a long illness. I’m told she wanted her ashes to be scattered up at the lake in Maine. Obviously, she left here heart there too.

I feel most at home when I’m in Machias. I feel close to those in my family who have passed, including Jennifer. I swear I’ve heard her laugh with me when I’m up at the lake. My parents are buried up there, as are my grandparents, my grandparents’ grandparents, and so on back 200+ years.

I try to go up every summer. Sometimes I make it up twice a year. Just as the lyrics say, “Take it in, take it with you when you go,” I keep Machias in my heart when I leave.

Last summer I was able to bring the whole family to Maine with me. It made me happy to see my son Michael take to the place, doing the same things I did as a kid. Swimming, exploring, catching frogs. Now he looks forward to next summer with me – when we can return to the place I call home.

"Baby Liam" and Me - 2009

"Baby Liam" and Me - 2009

Comments

  1. PackAcctnt says

    Jill,

    Awesome blog, I am glad I decided to find out what this was about. Yes, I agree, those times were some of my best memories. Now that I am about to graduate, I would like to put some plans down to meet with everyone on the lake next summer like we used to for a lot of fun and heavy consumption of New England crusteacions(sp).

  2. Tain Carwile says

    Jill, Love the article going home. I feel exactly like that about West Bloomfield NY and all the family and the good memories growing up. It just touches a place in your heart.

  3. Joyce Beverly says

    Jill, your photo of “The Gang” with grandparents reminds me so much of many photos we have of my children and their cousins. Like in your family, there are 4 boys and 2 girls. They have had many special times together. I have 41 first cousins, and also many special memories. Sometimes I think home is where you spent time with your cousins. Love this blog… keep up the good work!

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