Last weekend, we visited my wife’s parents. They still live in the same house the she grew up in. Janet lived in that little town until we got married just over 4 years ago.
As we drove the small-town streets to her parent’s house, Janet recognized someone crossing the street ahead of us as an old acquaintance. That sort of thing doesn’t happen much here in the suburbs of Denver. I found myself feeling a little jealous of the roots that she had.
When I was growing up, my parents moved a lot. Between parents’ job changes and their divorce, I had lived in eight homes in six towns by the time I was 18. Most of that time was in the suburban areas of Fresno and San Francisco.
From age 16 to 18, I lived in Grayson County, VA near the small town of Fries (pronounced freeze). I took the above photo from my room. Despite having lived there for only two years, the little town of Fries is what I look back to as my home town. I could point to the fact that I graduated from Fries High School (Go Wildcats!). It goes way beyond that, though.
A few years ago, I was returning to the area to support my sister when her husband passed away. Coming up highway 89 from North Carolina, I passed a sign at a community center that read, “Benefit Gospel Sing.” I thought, Yep, I’m home.
At 16, this long-haired wierdo from California was welcomed to the area with a graciousness that I have only ever found in the South. When I returned for that funeral, I saw an outpouring of love and help to my sister that defied description.
I doubt if I will ever be able to return to Fries to live. It and the rest of the New River Valley will always hold a special place in my heart. I may not be able to go “home,” but I can try to bring that sense of home to my suburban neighborhood. I suggest we all bring a little but of that southern hospitality where-ever we may be. Perhaps it will feel like coming home.
P.S. I will also admit that Kerryville, the fictional small town in the Wil Clarey stories is, in part, based on Fries (more culturally than geographically - the geography puts it closer to the village of Newport, VA). My hope is that my readers will enjoy that hometown feel and want to bring it to their home towns.