I grew up in Tennessee. So did my brothers. So, for that matter, did my parents. They were actually born within a few days of each other at Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga.
Tennessee will always be my home. Our home. But none of us lives there anymore.
Several years ago, when Archer was small, we all gathered in Chattanooga, our hometown. We stayed at a hotel and went to the aquarium and the carousel and the choo-choo. I even drove around the campus of my high school -- no one was there, it was summer. That's the only time I've been back since my folks moved away from Chattanooga while I was in grad school.
We're in Tennessee this week -- all the siblings and their families and the patriarch and matriarch. It's not any place in Tennessee that has special meaning to us, just a lovely resort near one of the massive lakes created by the TVA back in the last century, lakes we were taught in school to regard as wonders of human ingenuity and triumphs over nature. The distinguishing features of the place are that we're all able to reach it in a day's drive, there's lots to do for the kids, and we can all be accommodated together in gigantic suites with kitchens where each family takes turns cooking for the group.
Yet driving through this landscape will always bring it all back to me. I have an affection for the distinctive feel of each of the places I've lived -- eastern Tennessee, central North Carolina, central Georgia, central Virginia, and now central Arkansas. The air feels different, the vegetation smells different, the soil crumbles differently, the hills rise and fall in distinctive wrinkles. It's the close gaps and expansive plateaus of eastern Tennessee, though, that will always send me straight back into my childhood.