If you grew up or have visited there, you would know: Cayo Hueso is Key West. Key West is my hometown. You can't begin to imagine how long it has taken me to understand the impact of that statement. Heck, I have only just acknowledged it in the last two weeks. Epiphany of the year!
It would be easy to say that I didn't live there long enough to call it my hometown, and many would agree with that statement. Hell I only attended my last two years of high school there, and then lived there sporadically from '92-'99. I was always running from the small town familiarity that bred gossip and inquiring eyes.
However, longevity has nothing to do with what or where we choose to call home. It is a feeling, a connection, a safe harbor, and the experiences that shaped us that determine where we call home.
I could take credit for this light bulb moment, and go into some long explanation of how I got in touch with my inner emotions...blah blah blah. But that would be a lie, and why lie on MY blog? So this is how it happened, my aha moment.
There I was, no shit, reading my daughter's facebook status... yes it was a facebook epiphany. I know, the irony. At any rate, my daughter, in her sometimes wise beyond her years way, was saying good-bye to our house in Maryland. She was thanking it for the laughter, the tears, and the comfort. She told our house how it watched her grow up more than any other thing had, and she said how she would never forget it.
Then, as if my tears weren't already flowing from the raw emotion of the post, she added the video/song from Miranda Lambert "The house that built me".
Yes, I suffered through the video, once.
I didn't dare hit play button again on the YouTube video link.
I still cry thinking about the post and the lyrics to the song.
It would be easy to say that it instantly "hit me" while reading the post, but it didn't. It hit when we started the drive to Key West, and I saw familiar surroundings I had not seen since my 10 year class reunion in 2002 (that was the last time I had been to KW.)
It hit me when I drove past 1320 Grinnell Street, the house that built me.
It hit me when my stay was almost cut short and I was forced to make a decision about leaving or staying, and all I could do was cry.
It was then I knew that Key West, for better or worse, was my hometown.
It was the town where I had made life-long friends. It was the town where I have way too many memories to count, both good and bad.
It was the town that shaped me, and forever changed my life. It was the town I grew up in, every bit of the phrase grew up. For those reasons and many more, it is my hometown.
I no longer have blood relatives in Key West. My phenomenal step-father sold the home we lived in, and has subsequently passed away. (Miss you Papa!)
The house that built me is hardly recognizable. The new owners gutted, remodeled and completely changed the home, my home, which holds/held so many memories for me- to include my wedding day.
Life moves on, and time changes everything- regardless and because.
Change is, but for all that changes, some things stay the same.
The streets retain their old charm. The Old Conchs keep their funky Bubba accent. Tourist shops close and new ones emerge. Sloppy's and Hog's Breath are still entertaining.
Conchs will always wear their athletic gear with pride, and the flats still have the capacity to run a boat aground and force its passengers to get out and push.
I do know one thing, Key West is my hometown and that will not change. Besides, I made it facebook official!
Hometown: Key West.