No. 56 Thoughts On My Island Home (Joel G. Hancock, Jr.)
I've heard that you can tell a Harkers Island fisherman apart from others because a Harkers Islander will never go far enough from home that he won't be able to sleep in his own bed that night. My wife Lauren's grandfather, uncles and brother (all from Beaufort) spent months at a time fishing off Mississippi and Louisiana. By contrast, if my grandfather Charlie caught enough fish on Monday he'd stay home the rest of the week, only returning to sea when the money from Monday's catch ran out.
I'm certain this attachment to home is not unique to Harkers Islanders, but it also wasn't unique to my grandfather's generation. My father tells a story about almost moving to Kentucky for a PhD in history. If I remember correctly, he and my mother made it some considerable distance down the road before deciding that the risk of permanent relocation to Kentucky was too severe for them, so they turned around and went back home. Years later, my father was offered a significant promotion in a different state. He said he might have taken the offer if not for the long drive to and from his Island home every morning and night!
Whether it's genetic or environmental, home has a very strong pull on this Island boy, too. I lived in Brazil for two years after high school as a missionary for my church. I was always perplexed when my American peers, many of whom were from the Western United States, daydreamed about returning home so that they could eat in American restaurants, or shop in American stores, or return to some of the conveniences of American life not shared by our Brazilian brothers and sisters. Not that I didn't look forward to those conveniences, or that they didn't look forward to being surrounded by family and friends, but when I daydreamed about home I was thinking about eating my mama's light bread rolls with my family on Sunday nights, or driving up to my aunt's house with my dog for some stewed conchs. I suppose when the nearest Wal-Mart or McDonald's is almost an hour away, convenience isn't high on the list of things you remember about home.
Today I'm writing this from my home in Pennsylvania. For me, home has at least two different meanings. First, and in the short-run, home is wherever Lauren and Calvin (our son, joining our home in September) live. I can't imagine a version of home without them. Second, home is a specific physical location where I want us to end up in the long-run--which doesn't necessarily have to be in my mama's house, but the nearer the better. As such, every discussion about where my family and I go after law school is had within the parameters of whether the next stop is literally or figuratively closer to home. If it's neither, it's just not an option. The thought of moving somewhere else permanently makes as much sense to me as asking my grandfather to fish on Tuesday morning after a big catch on Monday.
Eventually, my two definitions of home will merge together. Hopefully Calvin will have stories to tell about his experience as an Island boy (or something very similar to it). I just hope that I can afford the drive to and from work every day.