On my frequent walks through Blackwell base, I pass a sign outside the bathroom that reads “What are you thankful for?” with a black jumbo sharpie tied to a string, encouraging people to answer. My hall mates are thankful for vacuums, weekends, and turkey. I, on the other hand (even though I do appreciate vacuums, weekends, and turkey) am thankful for my home. Olivia Downing, a best friend of mine at Furman who lives on Blackwell 100, calls Blackwell home when she refers to returning to her room. Every time Olivia calls Blackwell home I am surprised because I do not consider Blackwell home. I have too many memories and traditions with friends and family in Birmingham, making Birmingham, Alabama my home.
When I think of home I see the yellowy golden leaves still dangling on tree limbs in Autumn. I feel the cool breeze on the back of my neck, the same breeze twirling leaves through the air. I feel the warmth of a fire, the smell of smoke, and the tangy but refreshing taste of apple cider. I feel the coziness of boots, sweaters, and scarves. I interact with friendly, caring people as the giving season falls upon us. October through the winter is my favorite time of year because everyone is friendly and happy. Memories make Birmingham my home.
One of my favorite memories that triggers thoughts of home is from autumn of my junior year in high school. My best friends, Ilana Engel, Eileen Barry, and Lia Bargeron, and I were still costumeless on October 30th. After school we met at the Summit to establish what we were going to dress up as for Halloween. The Summit is a huge, beautiful outdoor mall with great food options and is a central location for the suburbs of Birmingham so it serves as our meeting point. Most of my friend memories include the Summit, whether it be dinner, shopping, or just strolling around. My friends and I have a fetish for Mexican food so we ate at Chuy’s, one of our favorite Mexican restaurants with a great view over looking Birmingham, as we discussed costume ideas.
Ilana, the cheesiest of my friends, blurted out cliché ideas like M&Ms or Skittles. Eileen, on the other hand, my most artistic friend, wanted to dress up as something weird like plants. Lia and I were both starving and day dreaming until an Avatar commercial awakened us both as we smirked at each other. The four of us decided last minute to dress up as Avatars. The excitement flowed through our skin, leaving Chuy’s on a mission to hit every store necessary in Birmingham to complete our costumes. We crammed into Eileen’s car, jamming to one of our favorite mix CDs, on our way to the Galleria, a large indoor mall. We searched Hollister Co. first for four electric blue tube tops. We were in luck! Since blue jean shorts were a known commodity, we drove to Halloween Express next to find blue body paint for the skin that would be showing. Luckily Halloween Express still had blue body paint in stock. The cashier assumed we were dressing up as Smurfs, but we were much more creative.
Back in the car, Lia googled Neytiri, the main female character in Avatar, to see what kind of make up she wore. After analyzing the light aqua colors and shimmers on Neytiri’s face we concluded that we could mimic her exotic look with various eyeshadows we already owned; but, with time to spare, we visited Sephora to explore their glitter shadows. Of course we purchased some shadows because they seemed so perfect for the occasion. We left Sephora as they were closing and drove to my house for a sleep over, content with our purchases from the afternoon. When we arrived home and unloaded our costume materials in my room Ilana realized we should have gotten hair accessories to incorporate into braids of some sort. I searched my arts and crafts box and luckily found feathers and beads that would look perfect hanging at the ends of braids. We were all set for Halloween!
I normally did not have people over on week nights but Halloween day happened to fall on D-day so we did not have any homework to complete. D-day is a school-wide community service day planned by our student government where we give back to the community through various projects. Speakers also come talk to us regarding our schools current theme. D-day is special because it brings our school’s community together, giving back to others while everyone is having fun.
Halloween day and D-day disguised as an avatar with my friends was extremely fun but the previous day makes my memory. Eating at Chuy’s with Ilana, Eileen, and Lia, enjoying the view over Birmingham, and journeying across Birmingham finding the missing pieces of our costumes. Simple memories such as this populate my memory as I remember what makes Birmingham my home.
A second memory that reminds me of home has become a tradition in my immediate family. Thanksgiving break has always felt much needed to everyone in my family. My Brother Ryan and I get a short break from schoolwork and my parents get a break from the long, stressful workday. Every Thanksgiving morning I wake up and hurry downstairs to make a cup of hot chocolate in the Santa mugs I take out early each year and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with my mother. I have always loved seeing the big floats cruise through the streets of New York City. While the parade is underway my dad usually begins to smoke the turkey in his Big Green Egg we got him for Christmas one year and Ryan sleeps, of course.
Once Ryan wakes up and we are all ready for breakfast we bring Kodiak, our English crème golden retriever, outside to the patio to eat breakfast by the stone fireplace, listening to the crackling as the flames eat away at the firewood. We spend the day relaxing outside, bundled up in sweatshirts and blankets, playing Rumy, a card game from my mother’s childhood. I frustrate Ryan when I play four of a kind instead of a sequence that he can build on and continue to get points. Because of the friendly competitive nature of my family we keep score to allow for entertaining in-game alliances and enemies. This keeps the game interesting. As the afternoon goes on we take a break from the outdoors, moving into the den to watch marathons until dinner. We usually choose to watch the ever-popular Harry Potter or James Bond marathons.
Our Thanksgiving dinner is fairly extravagant with multiple dishes and casseroles but I can only remember the food I put on my plate year after year. My plate always consists of two slices of smoked turkey, a large portion of dressing—gravy covering the turkey and dressing, of course—macaroni and cheese, and salted green beans, to fill the veggie portion of my meal. I have mastered exactly how much food to put on my plate, ensuring I eat it all. The best for last, my dad and I love the delicious chocolate roulage for dessert.
Our stomachs full of a fantastic Thanksgiving feast, we go down stairs to the basement to enjoy a family movie in the media room. The movies we watch are mostly action and thrillers with dramatic plot twists. As much as my mother and I enjoy family movies, we are more concerned with getting our rest for a full day of Black Friday shopping at the Summit, beginning at the 4:00 am Belk early bird sale. We are not quite insane enough to be at Belk’s 2:00 am extra early bird sale, but we joke about how that might be us one day. Some people wonder how fighting through desperate, ruthless crowds at 5:00 in the morning is considered fun—something to wake up for—but I wonder what parts of Black Friday shopping is not considered fun? The entire atmosphere is somewhat insane, but beyond the craziness, the holiday spirit is still present. The charity people ringing bells at the front of department stores make me so happy because they are constant reminders of the caring, holiday season.
My mother and I enjoy a nice, much needed, shopping break and eat lunch at Flip Burger Boutique overlooking the rest of the Summit and Birmingham. After, we stop into one of our favorite stores, Williams-Sonoma, to enjoy a tasty sample of steamy apple cider and a sweet piece of peppermint bark, while browsing the new Santa and reindeer shaped cookie cutters. When 6:00 pm rolls around we bring shopping to an end and head home to begin the rival football weekend, watching Alabama and Auburn battle in the Iron Bowl. My family loves college football so we watch all of the games but we are huge South Carolina fans, so the real game is on that Saturday when South Carolina plays Clemson. Things as simple as watching movies or college football bring my family together, enjoying each other’s company.
Everyone has a different idea of home depending on the types of memories made. The statement “Home is where the heart is” is applicable for everyone whether he or she knows why or not. For me, home is every color-changing leave blowing through the wind; home is the view of disappearing ashes from the fireplace floating upward; home is the comforting sigh I release when around my family; home is my realization of wholeness and certainty.
Home can be a physical place, or a sense of closure that you only experience. I have realized that home for me is a little bit of both. Something about Birmingham is friendly and inviting. But then I imagined all of my memories with the same people and the same outcomes in a different city. Of course it would be different, but the homey feeling remains in my soul. The heart of what makes home home is every thought, memory, photograph that makes you feel warm and sentimental. The emotions evoked by memories are priceless because no matter how much time has passed, home—physically or mentally—is never out of reach.