Dorothy was right: There’s no place like home

Published 5:46 pm Saturday, July 30, 2016

I remember the feel of Mama’s heartbeat and the creak of the rocking chair as she held me close, humming some old gospel hymn.

When she held me close, I was home.

My first day of kindergarten, Daddy left me on the teacher’s lap seated in a circle surrounded by little faces I did not know. I was a very shy five-year-old, but distracted and intrigued by the sights and sounds. Each child held a musical instrument, and I was given mariachis to shake along with the others. For a few moments inside a room decorated with drawings made from finger paints, paper lanterns of colored construction paper twirling overhead, I was caught up in the drama.

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Then the music stopped.

I searched through the pigtails of little girls, eyes darting past the freckled faces of little boys, passing the clutter of toys.

I was frantically searching for Mama who had slipped out during my momentary distraction. Tearing out of the arms of a woman I did not know, I raced down the dark halls until I was home again, in her arms. She put me in the dark blue Oldsmobile and off we went.

Kindergarten stuck, but only after a few trial runs.

That’s just how it was with Mama and me. She was the macaroni to my cheese, the glaze on my donut, the blue in my sky. We made home wherever the two of us landed, lying in the sun on hot summer days with only a water hose to keep us cool or keeping up with Marlena’s near-death cliffhangers on “Days of Our Lives” while eating Lima beans with grape Kool-Aid.

I find the hardest thing for me is longing for home, not the stone house I grew up in or the physical place we all come home to, but instead a feeling that only the soul recognizes.

My mama was my home. I can take her memory with me, but I can never quite go back there again. Your home might be a sister or a best friend, but most of us find our safe, familiar spots in this world, often quite by accident — if only they would stay put after we find them.

In the fifth grade, I ventured outside my home. Darren was in my class and invited me to spend the night with him.

We did all the things little boys do when no one is looking. We crossed the train tracks to the gas station where we bought handfuls of bubble gum and cinnamon flavored toothpicks. We jumped off the roof of the shed onto the trampoline, threw rocks at an abandoned house, and rode our bikes too fast. I flipped off my bike and skidded down the blacktop hill, bloodying my knees and elbows.

Of course, I cried out for Mama. I just wanted to go home.

With tears in my eyes all these years later, I still do.


David Creel is a Mississippi native and syndicated columnist. You may reach him at