“What a pity that we remember so little of the riches of childhood; nothing but isolated scenes and insignificant events, and even those in a transformed shape, the way we have grown to think about them since then, occasionally mentioning them through the years.” –Margit Kaffka, Colours and Years
Home. I have fought with myself for years trying to distance myself from this conceptual term. “Home” is generally found wedged between a slew of other words, forming cheesy quotes and slogans that cynical people like me scoff at. After returning for the winter holiday, I have found that I have lost the battle. Savannah is my home. Although I grew up in a neighboring city, I never felt as connected to my childhood residence as I did the oak-lined streets of Georgia’s oldest city. Neither my parents nor my sisters live anywhere near the house I spent most of my young life in. Truth be told, it is no longer in existence – that goes for my deceased granny’s residence as well. Savannah is my constant.
Savannah is not only Georgia’s first city, but America’s oldest planned one. In 1733, James Oglethorpe landed in Savannah and named the 13th and final American colony “Georgia” after King George II. With the help of a local Yamacraw chief, Tomochichi, Savannah thrived. Original cobblestone streets still exist from this era (ten cheers to all those who can properly navigate these streets in stilettos). Like all Southern states during the Antebellum Era, Georgia is marred with the fact that it used to be a slave state. With the use of slaves, white Georgians grew wealthy from the cultivation of cotton. I know that Savannah is one of the most breathtaking cities I have laid eyes on, but historically Savannah has been saved due to its beauty. Visit Savannah writes that “pre-Civil War Savannah was praised as the most picturesque and serene city in America… Union General William Tecumseh Sherman entered in mid-December after burning the city of Atlanta and everything else in his path on his ‘March to the Sea.’ Upon entering Savannah, Sherman was said to be so impressed by its beauty that he could not destroy it. On December 22, 1864, he sent a famous telegram to President Abraham Lincoln, offering the city as a Christmas present.”
During my time in Georgia I tried to see as many people as possible and eat as much food as I could stomach. I embarked on a “Great American Junk Food Journey,” which left me several pounds heavier. I ate at Moe’s at least five times and my mother even cooked Low Country Boil for me. If you don’t know what Low Country Boil is, take this moment now to cry and feel sorry for yourself. I discovered that sweet tea is now way too sweet for me. In order to consume this staple, I had to do half-unsweet (“Northern tea”) and half-sweet (“Southern tea”). Unfortunately I did not succeed in my quest to see all of my loved ones. After being gone for two and a half years, two weeks is not long at all. I did, however, pay homage to my granny with my father. Out of everything I had planned, visiting her grave was one of the most important things for me to do.
Whenever I tell my students of where I am from, I generally start out by asking, “How many of you have seen Forrest Gump or The Last Song?” I then show Miley’s music video for “When I Look at You” (I am a pop culture princess). The movie was shot at several locations in Savannah and Tybee Island. Two friends, Brittany and Chris, and I spent one day “walking in Miley’s footsteps.” All these places we grew up going to, but we decided to do it for the kids…
Going back was surreal, yet so normal. I saw that life really does go on, which terrifies me. Although I am not judging those who are living a settled life, I do not want it. At least, that is, not yet. I might have changed, but what of it when I can easily just resume the life I left behind? Although I was on cloud nine, I found myself at times overstimulated and overwhelmed. I went from being in a country where only about 16% of the population speaks English to the United States. The ease of being somewhere where I could understand everything around me was comforting, yet overpowering. I actually forgot how friendly people were where I am from, which continuously threw me off. I am not saying that Hungarians are unfriendly, but boundaries – especially in regards to strangers – are extremely different. Seeing ankles in winter time and feet on tables brought out the Hungarian in me. The clear obesity epidemic that plagues my home was upsetting. I missed the freedom of public transportation and much more.
Even though I longed for some aspects of my life back in Budapest while in Georgia, I loved being surrounded by my very best friends and family. Being able to connect with those who know me best is powerful. Driving down country roads with the music up and windows down brought me back to some of my favorite times. I miss jumping on hay bales, kayaking in the marsh, laying in the middle of a dirt roads to watch meteor showers, and going muddin’. I will forever miss the summer storms, sunlight during the winter months, and the ocean. Savannah is my home. It was nice to come to terms with it.
Thank you to everyone who made my trip back wonderful. I love you all.
“And if you feel just like a tourist in the city you were born, then it’s time to go and define your destination – there’s so many different places to call home.” –Death Cab for Cutie “You Are a Tourist.”
A Lesson From Miss Jennifer: In the words of One Direction, “Don’t forget where you belong.”