Tenure Year & What Makes Home “Home”

It’s amazing to me that my husband is up for tenure this year at the small liberal arts college where he teaches. Not that I’m surprised he made it to this point–his whole academic career has been heading this direction since we married nearly ten years ago. No, what amazes me is that the tenure decision falls at the end of the sixth year of teaching.

The sixth year of teaching.

That means this is our sixth year in Kentucky. Who can believe it?

I like it here.

I like our small town, and our fixer-upper house, and our friends who’ve become aunties to my baby girl. I like that my husband can walk to work, that my neighbor and I have a standing walking date with our strollers on weekday mornings at 9 am. I like that people use “Derby Day” (the first Saturday in May) as a marker of time as often as they use “Mother’s Day.” I like that when we go to the grocery store we always see at least a half-dozen folks from church. Or the nurse from the doctor’s office. Or the cashier from the post office. I like that on rainy days like today when the temperature is predicted to drop, people kind of freak out about the potential snow.

But you know what?

I’m not from here. I’m working hard to plant our roots in this limestone-heavy soil of the bluegrass, but I sometimes wonder if it will ever feel like home.

I don’t particularly care about college basketball, for example, which automatically makes me an anomaly in this part of the country. Also, the word “barbecue” makes me think of sloppy joes, and I like my corn bread sweet, my eggs dippy, sauerkraut on New Years, fastnachts on Fat Tuesday, and my red beets pickled. Clearly, most of my sense of “home” revolves around food. I’ve written before about my love of regional delicacies like whoopie pies and corn cakes, and have even posted posts that compile a list of all my previous posts about food.

As blogger Lisa-Jo Baker wrote in a beautiful 
blog post today, "Home is where people feed you 
what you missed before you ask for it."

Lucky for me, our neighborhood Kroger now sells Turkey Hill ice cream and iced tea, so at least I can get some of that on a regular basis. (Turkey Hill is one of the brands I have missed over the years, especially because the ice cream shop I worked in through high school sold their ice cream, which was then considered a local novelty. I had the ingredients of each flavor memorized, even the seasonal ones, like Southern Lemon Pie. I am an awesome ice cream scooper, by the way.)

I’m a fan of food, and I miss central Pennsylvania food, some days, as much as I miss the people of central Pennsylvania.

Because home is all those things.

People. Food. Memories. Places. Love.

But it’s something else, too, something you can’t really put a label on. Because certainly I’ve got those things here in my own backyard of central Kentucky: People I love. (Hello, friends!) Food I love. (Hello, pimento cheese!) Memories I love. (Hello, firstborn child!) Places I love. (Hello, small-town Main Street, beautiful horse farms, amazing restaurants that serve food made with local ingredients!)

But I’m not from here.

And I feel that a lot. Maybe for me, since I do have a sense of being from a particular place, that’s all there is to it. Maybe for you, it’s something else.

As we head into the holidays and most folks spend time with family and loved ones, I’d love to know what you think about that place you call home, if you’re lucky enough to have one. I know that not everyone does, and I know that for some of you, the memories, the places, the food, and the people you associate with ‘home’ give you the opposite of warm and fuzzy feelings. Your thoughts are welcome in this community, too.

What makes home home for you?

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22 comments on “Tenure Year & What Makes Home “Home”

  1. Rising says:

    My book club talked about you and your blog last evening. Several of the members are former teachers of yours and Stephens. I forwarded this one to Mrs. Cochran, Mrs. Caffier and Mrs. Cavallaro. All say hello and send you their best. Our book was THE HAPPINESS PROJECT by Gretchen Rubin. A lot of your thoughts remind me of your blogs. We remember you fondly-even though we are happy to be retired. HAPPY THANKSGIVING to you and your family. Keep blogging. Love, Mrs. Rising aka Jane

  2. Rising says:

    I am happy when I am with those I love……

  3. Dad (Stephen Sands I) says:

    I just finished Facetime’ing with you and Clara and read this. Touched my heart as I do miss you guys being close. But in a little over 24 hours we will be down there with you.

    Gail and I love our home…it is where we live and love to be. I have lived other places and they are nice but for me (like you) there is something about this area that I’d hate to leave.

    looking forward to your hugs!

  4. Erica says:

    I truly feel that no matter where I am, that as long as I have Raym and the kids with me, that I am “at home.” But no matter how much I’ve traveled, or lived “elsewhere,” I definitely feel the true comfort that my “homeland” brings me, is something that can’t be replaced. It’s a blessing to have family roots, traditions, food, etc., that make a place special….and I am sure you feel that way toward Central PA…and if you’d continue to raise your kids in Kentucky, then they’d establish that strong connection to their “homeland” too…since they ARE from there. 🙂

    • Elizabeth says:

      Nice distinction between home and homeland. I’m definitely content wherever J and the Bean and Beans-to-be are, but there is something about the actual place, too.

      And I agree about my kiddos. I had a line in this post that said my kids will consider Kentucky “home” but then I deleted it! I’d rather not think those thoughts at this point! (Actually, I blogged about it a few years ago before the Bean even existed.)

  5. Erica says:

    PS. Happy Thanksgiving! Much Love from all of us 🙂

  6. Elaine Wise says:

    Although I was born in Eastern PA, home for me is now in Harmony. I was in Eastern PA 18 years, and they were definitely formative, but I have now been in Harmony for 42 years, counting my college years. This is where I raised my family, this is where 3 of my grandchildren live, this is where my church community, my school community, my friends are now. When I have visited back where I grew up, since I still have a brother there, it has changed so much, it doesn’t seem like home anymore. I brought my food tastes with me, ie. the German I grew up eating. Home is here, in Harmony, and most people don’t even realize I didn’t grow up here anymore 🙂 And that’s saying something from this little community.

    • Elizabeth says:

      I think that by the time our years here outnumber our years anywhere else, I’ll feel more like a visitor to PA and real Kentuckian… but I might never admit it!

  7. stephen says:

    I am not sure where home is for me. In my 33 years of life, I have lived in over 15 houses, 3 states, and 2 countries.
    I am a wonderer, a traveler. And I love it. My personal goal is to be able to fit all those things most important to me in a vehicle, so we can go at any time.
    I miss my friends from previous places dearly. I TOTALLY miss the food.
    For me, home is where I am right now. I have my wife and kids with me. I am able talk to those closest to me thanks to technology. I am able to travel back to my previous places thanks to my income.

    • Elizabeth says:

      I’d love to fit everything I own into one vehicle. But as long as there are strict car seat and booster seat laws, it probably won’t happen. 🙂 hehe.

      You’re getting old, by the way. Thirty-three!

  8. Mary Lou White says:

    My reasons for being in this little town in the middle of horse country are the same as yours, but we have been here longer. Every time we talk about leaving this town, it feels awful because it means I am thinking about leaving “home”. I think TIME is the big factor. My youngest was 5 when we moved here. Now she is 23. No one in the family likes to shop with me for the reasons you mentioned – it takes a long time to chat with everyone I know, which I cherish. My job gives me the wonderful opportunity to meet so many people, especially children, and I am able to watch them grow up. (Being the storytime lady at the library has so many perques!) NC is home to me the way Pennsylvania is to you, but it has been so long now since we lived there, and our roots here have grown so deep, that when I go back “home” now, I feel like a visitor. Only when we roll back into town here do I feel that wonderful, deep sigh that comes when one returns home.

    • Elizabeth says:

      The truth is, most of my family members don’t live in the homes they did when I was a child (my friends live all over the place; my brother is in Saudi Arabia for crying out loud!) and so much has changed since I’ve been gone, that very little remains what I remember as “home.” And it’s a lot harder to drive myself around, too! Those roads just keep changing on me!

      I will always prefer sleeping in my own bed here in Kentucky to sleeping anywhere else though, so maybe this is home for me!

      PS I’m glad you’re the storytime lady. 🙂

  9. Tori says:

    My husband and I have recently been having a conversation about this very topic. He has lived in many places (Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Illinois, and now Kentucky) and seems to prefer a transitory lifestyle. I grew up here in Georgetown – attended K-12 and then 3 1/2 years of college here – so for a long time it was home. Then I spent 18 months living in Illinois with my immediate family, and I thought I’d never feel a sense of home there, and that returning to Georgetown with my new husband would be a glorious homecoming. So far it feels much different than I expected. I’m not the same person that grew up here, and I miss the community I became a part of in Illinois. They nurtured me when I was the Tori who was finishing college and becoming Catholic and preparing to get married. But now Georgetown is becoming home in a different way (the “first year of marriage, first-born child” way).

  10. Beverly Sands says:

    Yes Elizabeth, This year I have sooo much to be thankfull ,especially the coming home to Ohio.

    I love being back home with family and new friends.

    Grandma BEV Nothing like HOME

  11. kelsie says:

    I recently found the following quote from Girl Gone International (girlgi.com) on Pinterest:

    “You will never feel completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”

    I feel like that. Pennsylvania is where I grew up. South Carolina was the first place Stephen and I went on our own. Washington is where I started a family. Now I live in Saudi Arabia, and I am making new friends and having new experiences here. I have friends in all of those places. There are restaurants and parks and special food I enjoy in all of those places.

    Not one of those feels completely home because it’s always missing something or someone. Which is probably why home for me is just being with my husband and children. Any addition to that – family, friends, food, tradtion – is welcome and wonderful, but all I need to be Home is my little family.

  12. Dad (Stephen Sands I) says:

    Well said Kelsie!

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