There is something about the South that conjures up images of family, roots and history in my mind’s eye.
The idea of homes that have stood for 100 years or more and whose loved ones are laid to rest within view of an upstairs window was completely foreign to me but also intoxicating and heartwarming.
I truly never knew of families living in one place that long until we moved to North Carolina.
Having grown up in South Florida, I came to accept old homes being unceremonially torn down as commonplace.
I once watched as 10 new townhomes got built on the same parcel of land where a single-family home once stood, 10 homes! Can you imagine?
There is gypsy blood that flows through my veins, literally.
My people come from regions in Spain where the gypsies roamed and still do.
I used to believe that I was destined to never lie under the same roof for more than three years at a time. That had always been my magic number.
As time moved on it grew to every seven years. The older we get the more tied down we become, the harder it becomes to box up and start anew.
Quite frankly feeling tied down was something I avoided like the plague.
Something changed in me much later in life and I began to wonder if my own children would ever know the beauty of coming back to a family home.
An old family home, dusty with memories and echoes of years gone by.
A home that would make them want to curl up and remember a childhood well spent, a time when dreams felt real and home was more than walls, it was everything.
Having become a father later in life I now have that opportunity, but it would require my settling down at this very moment and planting those seeds that my children will sow.
Settling down was also an idea I never really appreciated before moving to Durham.
There’s a whisper that calls to me from the trees here and a smell in the air that calms my soul.
It tells me that I could be content here, that my children could grow here and that their children would need no more than the previous generation did.
A well-worn front porch and the sounds of a car traveling up on an old gravel road feels much like a warm coat on a winter’s day.
I’ll be the first to say that I was always a four quarters over 100 pennies kind of fellow, never needing too much by way of friends, acquaintances or those roots I referred to.
Now I fear those beliefs were products of my old environment or of my older imagination.
Life here tells me that lack of friends and family is the truest source of what so much of our world suffers from: loneliness, sadness, depression and isolation, even in the largest of crowds.
In our short three years here we have already been surrounded by the kind of people you see yourself experiencing a long life with. The kind of families you share laughter and tears with, joy and tragedy with and all things in between.
These friends appreciate the things in life that I had longed for, the simplicity of time well spent and of service and of hospitality.
The knowingness that, no we don’t need to keep up with the Joneses, but rather to invite them over for coffee.
The understanding that kindness and warmth travels to the deepest parts of one’s soul and that family, friendship and roots are three of the most glorious gifts a person can receive.
I often wondered why my years in Florida did not bring that same sense of community.
I look outside my windows here and marvel at the oaks that tower above us, their roots magnificent and undeniable. These mighty trees have withstood the tests of time and continue their journey upward toward the heavens.
In Florida we were surrounded by ficus trees with large and impressive canopies yet the shallowest of roots.
I am indeed grateful that the same winds that can topple a ficus blew us here.
I know that not all people look around this place and see the same things, but I hope these words serve as a reminder that we do live in a magical and wondrous place and that taking pride in those old Southern roots is something we newer neighbors don’t take for granted.
Henry Amador-Batten is a Durham writer, life coach, family-equality advocate and stay-at-home dad to his son. He and his husband are the founders of DADsquared, offering support and resources to gay fathers. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org