Once upon a time, there was a blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl with stars in her eyes and not one, but two dreams in her mind.
She stood up in front of the whole church on Sunday mornings, singing her little nine-year-old heart out and swearing up and down she would one day be a country star. She wanted to travel the world and sing her songs and play her guitar and open for Keith Urban.
But she also gazed from her front yard to the top of the hill, where a white house with a wrap-around porch sat. The house begged to one day be filled with the pitter-patter of little feet that could walk right down the hill to grandma and grandpa's house whenever they pleased. It whispered promises of husband and wife dancing around the kitchen, happy Christmases and finger painting, "I love you" and "pass the butter, please." You could almost see the homemade candles glowing in the window and hear a someday mama singing her babies to sleep.
So, every time that girl looked up at that Notebook-esque house on the hill, she said to her mom, "I'm going to live there one day."
But pretty soon, the girl said goodbye to nine years old and greeted thirteen with a pen in her hand and a song in her heart. Still, the house stood strong, and the girl still gazed at it longingly.
Then came sixteen, and the songs started to make more sense. And still, the house stood, but the girl only glanced up the hill every now and again, when she wasn't too busy with high school musicals and cross country meets.
Much too soon, eighteen arrived, and there the girl stood on stage with only one dream in mind. But still, the house stood. And the girl only gave it a peek or two on the off-chance she walked by.
By the time twenty tumbled in, the girl never looked at all.
The other day, I was at my childhood home, which my older brother fortunately inhabits now, keeping the memories safe.
I said goodbye to the swingset where a bee stung my pinky finger. I said goodbye to the flower beds that I always hated weeding. I said goodbye to the backyard where many a game was played, many a firefly captured in sweaty hands. I said goodbye to the blue and yellow room of mine, where I jumped on the bed to The Backstreet Boys Millennium CD and played school with my American Girl dolls. And I said goodbye to that white house at the top of the hill.
Of course, I will be back for Christmas and Easter and any other time I can make an excuse to come home. But the dream life in the white house with the wrap-around porch has faded into the distance, as tomorrow morning, I begin chasing my Tennessee dream full speed ahead.
I write this in a hotel room, halfway between home and Nashville, aching in the company of this bittersweet farewell. But I take solace in knowing I can always come home, greeted with open arms and my puppy tackling me to the ground and something delicious baking in the oven. And the white house dream still stands... just maybe on an acreage in Tennessee instead, with a mama that sometimes goes on tour, but still sings her babies to sleep every night (there's an app for that-- FaceTime).
So, here's to white houses and wrap around porches and standing on stages singing our hearts out. Here's to family and here's to foreign places. Here's to dreaming big but always remembering where you came from. Here's to Nashville and here's to home.