Home Sweet Home
By By Lloyd Albritton
I grew up in Atmore. Well . . . not exactly in Atmore, but along the piney wood forests and dusty dirt roads of a rural community near Atmore called Nokomis, named after the famous Indian Chief. Well . . . I'm not really sure if Nokomis was a Chief or not, or if he was famous, but I'm pretty sure he was an Indian. Still, my family did visit Atmore every now and then when I was a little boy to buy the groceries they could not get at Hubbird's Store out on Highway 31, and for feed and seed and such. When I was old enough to chase after girls, Atmore was the place I went to look for them. And when I finished high school and left home, Atmore was the place I referred to as "home" on my military records and in conversations with all my buddies.
When I was growing up, Atmore was sort of like Paris or London to me. It was the height of sophistication. Atmore was the home of Buster's Dairy Bar, the Saturday night Record Hop, and older guys with cool hotrods. Before I was fifteen years old, Atmore was the biggest city I had ever been to. That's when I decided to run away from home with my cousin, Buckshot Barlow, and hitchhike to Houston, Texas.
I wasn't mad with my parents about anything. That's not why I ran away from home. It was all just to have a boyish adventure, sort of like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn floating down the Mississippi on a raft. Me and Buckshot did not have a raft or a river to float away on, so we hitchhiked. We sneaked off in the middle of the night and hitchhiked to Houston. We had ten dollars in our pockets between us. Our plan was to stay at the home of Buckshot's aunt who lived in Houston and to get summer jobs there and make a lot of money and date lots of girls. It wasn't a very well-thought-out plan.
Oh, our trip was an adventure alright, but that is the subject of a story I have told elsewhere and it would not fit into this space anyway. Suffice it to say that, in the summer of 1963, Houston, Texas, was a VERY, VERY big city, especially to a country boy who usually spent his summers barefoot at the local creek. I was gone two weeks before my father finally lost his patience and sent me a bus ticket home. He said he would come and get me if I was not on that bus. Just between us girls, I was so-o-o homesick and so-o-o glad Daddy made me come home.
When I rode into Atmore on the Trailways bus, my face pressed to the window looking out at the familiar streets and storefronts, a feeling came over me that I will never forget. It was the feeling of being home. I was prepared for the whipping of my life from my father for doing such an outrageous thing as running away to Texas for no good reason, but my parents were so glad to see me safely home that no mention was ever made of punishment. Instead, I became something of a hero in my family's chronicles and all my aunts and uncles and cousins begged me to repeat my tales of adventure for a long time afterward. I did not tell anybody this at the time, but the best part of my entire adventure was riding into town on that bus that hot Saturday afternoon – returning home. Wow, what a wondedrful feeling that was!
I am not widely world traveled, nor do I feel much more sophisticated today than I was at the age of fifteen. Still, I have traveled and lived in many parts of this great country and have visited many of its greatest cities: New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, Denver, Atlanta, and many others. But, I do not think I have ever visited, nor ever will visit, a city so big and intimidating as Houston, Texas, was to me in that summer of 1963 at the age of fifteen. And I do not believe I shall ever have a feeling so fully comparable to the feeling I experienced upon my return to my small Alabama hometown.
On those numerous occasions since that time when I have gone away from home and returned, I have always felt a little piece of the same joy and warmth I felt on that bus in the summer of 1963, a feeling much like the comfort of one's own home at the end of a hard day at work: the sounds of children playing, the wonderful smells of supper cooking and the inviting crackle of a fire burning on the home hearth. That's what it feels like to come home. That's what it feels like to have a home to come home to. To me, that will always be the sights and sounds of a sleepy little Alabama town with two main streets and one main red light.
Lloyd Albritton publishes a series of commentaries entitled The Albritton Letters on the Internet at www.Lloyd-Albritton.com. He can be contacted at LloydAlbritton@aol.com.