As the line made famous in the “Wizard of Oz,” states: There is no place like home. Home is where you feel comfortable. It’s where you are familiar with your surroundings. It’s where you know the people that make up the community. It’s also where you lay your head each night in the comforts of your bed and in my case, surrounded by my pets. And I am blessed to have three places in my heart that I call home.
I may no longer live there, but Liberty County still feels like home. I had the pleasure to make two recent trips to Liberty County and on both occasions, I felt as if I had never left. People I had not seen in nearly two years welcomed me back and conversations picked up right where we left off, so long ago. I got to attend the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce’s annual Oyster roast and Low Country Boil and catch up with a lot of friends and colleagues.
I got to catch up with my long-time friend and mentor, Lewis Levine. I got a chance to say hello to so many people I had not seen in a long time and talk about the great food, music, our hobbies and our lives. It was a pleasure to attend the County Commission meeting in person. Same for attending the City of Hinesville Council meeting. It was awesome to walk around Gap Park this past Saturday and talk to Michelle Ricketson and Ro Krueger and so many others at the County- wide yard sale and Homegrown, Homemade Market. I ate at my favorite spots and chatted with my co-workers Addie Carpenter and Danielle Holden same as it would be if I worked every day from the Hinesville office.
I got work done, visited my favorite places and I honestly look forward to my next trip where I hope to catch up with many others I missed on this recent trip. And then Saturday afternoon, I pulled up to my home in Chattanooga. I got greeted (read plowed down), by my three dogs as I attempted to enter the door. My cat looked annoyed as usual while my parakeets chirped in their cage and my rabbits gave me that, “Where are my carrots?” look. Mom was happy to see me and had cooked up homemade chicken soup. That night I slept, wrapped in my favorite blanket, with my fluffy pillows and Little Man at my feet. Piper and Chelsea laid on their doggie beds and snored all night long. The next day, I walked my dogs, conversed with my sister-in-law, had some beers with my brother and watched my Sunday night programs with mom.
I have most of my family still living in Miami, another place I consider home.
I don’t miss the horrendous traffic (people that complain about the traffic here in Hinesville and in Bryan County, like Jeff Whitten, don’t know squat about real traffic issues until you’ve tried to drive on the Palmetto Expressway or I-95 during Miami rush hour traffic), but Miami is where I spent most of my life (41 years to be exact) and made tons of memories with family and friends that I still cherish today.
Miami is a wondrous metropolitan city, rich in Caribbean and Latin American cultures and traditions. We have a big family and we often got together for the holidays and huge Cuban food cookouts. It was easy and comfortable to speak in Spanish as the majority of the population in Miami spoke it as well. And it was cool to grow up bi-lingual because in Miami it was almost a necessity.
In all three of my hometowns there are a few subtle differences and it has a lot to do with the people. Southern hospitality, politeness and welcoming arms are a part of the true South. Miami, may be in the South but it is not the true South.
Miami is more like a true small Latin and Caribbean Island with the exception of being inland.
There is no sweet tea in Miami, not like in Georgia and Tennessee. But there is plenty of guarapo (sugar cane juice) and Café Cubano. There is no “Bless your heart,” (sarcastically said or heartfelt) in Miami. You don’t hear anyone say, “y’all,” in Miami, that word doesn’t exist and is replaced instead by, “Oye que pasa?”
But in the end these subtle differences in mannerisms and culture are what I adore about each location. Ultimately, home is where you made and continue to make your memories and where your heart feels welcomed and warmed.
This Thanksgiving week I hope you get to find your way home, wherever that may be.
Patty Leon is senior editor of the Courier.