Finding Home in Different Places

 
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Ashley grew up in Crossville, Alabama, a town with “two and a half stoplights.” Population 1500, Crossville is a town where not much changes other than the one restaurant that has rotated ownership every couple of years during her lifetime.

I speak to Ashley on the phone. She and her husband live in New York City, but she is back in Crossville visiting family. Pregnant with her first child she has a few minutes to share with me a bit of her story of finding home in very different places.

Ashley’s entire family has called Crossville home for generations. Her grandparents spent their childhoods on the same street, “in love with each other their whole lives.” They raised their children in the same small town, who grew up and had children of their own. Combining all of the generations of her family’s history in Crossville, she believes the number of family members who called the same town home totals somewhere in the hundreds.

 

She laughs at the realization that her family was largely responsible for her formal education; her mother, father, mother’s brothers, and mother’s cousins were all teachers in the Crossville school system. After school she and her cousins would invent new games and romp together through the woods; on Sundays her whole family ate lunch at her grandmother’s after church then took long naps scattered through the house — on sofas, in beds, on the floor.

Her nephew begins to cry a few minutes into our conversation. I hear his whimpers, and Ashley apologizes for the interruption as she puts the phone down to get him from his crib in one of the rooms of her childhood home. I hear him make contented noises as he settles into her arms, and she returns to continue her story of a childhood in small-town Alabama and the transition she made to New York City as a young adult.

Ashley moved to New York City eight years ago, shortly after her graduation from Belmont University in 2008. She studied Public Relations in college, and with her lifelong passion for dance, theater, and music, she knew New York City was the place she wanted to call her new home.

 
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The idea of home is a complex thing. Is it determined by where one has spent the most number of years? Is it where one currently resides? Or is it something that extends beyond a physical location?

According to Ashley, in many ways her home will always be Crossville, Alabama. It has left an indelible mark on her as the place her roots run the deepest. It will always be her family’s home, and she plans to return to the same farmhouse she grew up in as often as she can so her son can experience the same joy of growing up surrounded by family.

Additionally, New York City has become home to Ashley as the place she learned to make it on her own. “I became an adult in New York,” she says. She met her husband in the city, is starting a family in the city, and has formed rich relationships with people who have come to feel like a new kind of family — through shared experiences rather than shared genetics.

Ashley and her family are moving to Nashville this spring. Ashley explains that their decision to move was primarily motivated by her husband’s career as a musician, and she anticipates that they will likely spend the rest of their lives there.

“It’s going to be very hard to leave New York,” she says. “But I feel pretty certain that Nashville will eventually become home to us as well.”

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