Have you ever noticed that when you leave home, you leave pieces of yourself there? Like your friends and family. You leave footprints in the sands of time, and you leave memories in the hearts of people you love. You also take pieces of home with you when you go.
You take your own memories, your accent, your distinctive way of looking at the world because you walked on that particular piece of earth. You take a few scars—some emotional, some physical—that you earned doing some things you maybe shouldn’t have done. You take the lessons you learned, like who you are, and the moral compass that will guide you for the rest of your life. All of it, the memories, the lessons, the people and even the accent are unique because you lived in that certain place and were surrounded by those certain people.
And those people in Gadsden, Alabama, my home town, are open, friendly and welcoming. They are easy to get to know and hard to leave; they’re the kind of people who hug you the first time they meet you. The kind of people who don’t put up fronts, but invite you to know who they really are.
I drove past the house in Alabama City where I lived most of my younger years. Darn, it’s so small! I saw some of the trees I used to climb. Trees were I used sit under in the shade and make necklaces of wild flowers. I crossed over railroad tracks, the same tracks where, when I was young, I pretended were balancing beams. I’m pretty sure that accounts for a couple of those scars. I walked past the house where I got my first kiss. While Texas is also my home, I will forever be an Alabamian. I’m a Dixie girl.
And this last week, I went home to Dixie. I spent time with my dad, my niece, my nephew (waving at Austin) and my dad’s girlfriend, AKA, my favorite shopping buddy, plus some old friends and my cousin. We bought shoes and purses, watched old western movies, talked about our favorite authors, watched Austin play video games, and drank coffee at my dad’s favorite restaurant–the Waffle House.
I did a lot of things I do when I go home, but this visit I did even more. The Gadsden Public Library asked me to help kick off their summer reading program for teens. Carol York and Nicole, GPL employees, escorted me to three different local high schools (I swear she wasn’t speeding) where I got to talk to the students about my book Born at Midnight and about being a writer. I visited Gadsden High, Gaston High, and Glencoe High. (Yeah, they love the letter “G” back home.)
I got to meet and greet the teens who are high on life–teens, who, like the characters in my Shadow Falls series, are trying to discover who they are, and how they will fit into this world. I loved every moment of it. All the schools were wonderful, but one offered a slightly more poignant punch for me. Glencoe High is where I went to school. While most of the school has been rebuilt, I still took a trip down memory lane. I realized that while I didn’t know I would end up writing when I walked the halls of that school when I was a teen, so many of my characters were born there. Because when I went to recall what it was it like to be a teen, you can bet I went back to those halls. I recalled the not so tasteful school lunches, and the feelings of excitement, anxiety, and insecurities that I carried inside me. I remembered with clarity the need to fit in, the crushes I had on certain boys, and the dreams of where my life would take me.
Then there was the big teen event at the Library. I got to meet old friends I hadn’t seen in years. (Sorry Debbie for getting you confused with someone else!) I got to meet fans who drove over an hour to come see me, and mother/daughter groups who both have read my book. I got to see old fans who came to see my Christie Craig events in the past. We laughed, we got silly, and I made more memories and put a few more footprints in the sands of time in my hometown.
If you haven’t gone home in a while, I don’t care where you are from, I recommend you give it a try. And thank you, Gadsden, and a huge thank you to Carol and Nicole and all the schools who invited me in for making my trip home such a wonderful experience.
Gaston High School
Glencoe High School
Gadsden High School
Gadsden Public Library Teen Event