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Going home

By Roger Barbee
Special to the Salisbury Post
The last time I was at Lake Norman was about 1960 and there was no lake — yet. My Uncle Guy had driven my cousin, my brother and me to see where the lake would be. He took us to a field and stood looking out over it and told us how, one day in the future, all that we saw would be covered by water. I don’t remember much more than that, but I was impressed by Uncle Guy’s ability to see far into the future. Uncle Guy is now dead, but the lake now covers the field we stood in with him, and many more such fields. Maybe the field in which we stood is now the lake-front property that my wife Mary Ann and I are moving to in August.
I don’t know why Uncle Guy drove us from our homes in Kannapolis to see where the lake would be, but I suspect it was because he loved to fish and he was known for his “fish fries” in the back yard of his Oak Street home, and he may have been envisioning future fishing trips to the lake. For whatever reason, he took us, and that trip standing in the field has stayed with me and is my connection with Lake Norman.
I left Kannapolis in 1964, went to college, and settled in the Washington, D.C., area, but I always carried the memory of standing in that field with Uncle Guy, his son and my brother wondering if he knew of what he spoke. Time and rising water have proven him correct. While my connection with the lake has not been one where I watched it develop into the varied resource it now is, I was there before the lake. Now it draws me to return, not quite to Kannapolis, but close enough.
So much has changed, obviously, since I lived in the area. The mills are gone, yet the area thrives with a wide variety of businesses. While Route 3 still is Mooresville Road, the creek we swam and played in, Coddle Creek, is now a reservoir. The school we went to for wrestling matches against an always good Mooresville High School team is now rebuilt. Davidson College, where I won my first wrestling championship, now accepts females. I-77, a line on a map then, now tries to carry traffic to and from Charlotte. The quarter-mile, red-clay, dirt tracks have been removed, making room for the modern NASCAR era. And Isle of Pines Road, Mooresville was only a developer’s plan.
How can a person return to what did not exist 50 years ago? Dr. John R. Coleman in his book “Blue Collar Journal: A College President’s Sabbatical” disagrees with the fine North Carolina author Thomas Wolfe who is well known for his title about going home. Coleman says that, in fact, “You can’t ever leave home,” much less return.
Our return began with a family reunion weekend in February 2017. My mother reared six children, and we have many grand-children and great-grandchildren. While not all of us were able to gather, about 80 of us shared good barbecue, sweet tea, hush puppies and cole slaw. Mary Ann and I enjoyed the gathering of family, and the delightful dinner we had one other night with Coach Mauldin’s widow, grown son, and two high school teammates with their spouses. As we were crossing Lake Norman on I-77 to return home, we were talking about the wonderful time we had just experienced, Mary Ann asked, “Would you move to Lake Norman?” “Don’t kid me,” I answered. A phone call that instant led us to a great Realtor, then a fine mortgage broker, and, after some looking, to our home on Isle of Pines Road.
Place! For 11 years, Mary Ann and I have identified deeply with this small place of ours that we call Red Hill. Nestled in the northern end of the Shenandoah Valley, it has been lovingly built into a fine postage stamp on the land. Planted, tended and all those things one does with a property, it has become our home, but it is, after all, only a place. It defines us in some ways, but we are ready to move on to another place while we can. We have met our new neighbors on both sides of 581, have contractors making some necessary changes to the house, and have plans for the yard and interior. Like Red Hill, 581 will begin to define us as we do what is done “on the Lake” instead of near the mountains and North Fork of the Shenandoah River. And, our family will be near to watch and share with us as we create our new home on the Lake.
I think Dr. Coleman right. Home is the place that we carry with us no matter where we go. Its values, friends, and family make an imprint, good or bad, on us that we never erase. Uncle Guy would approve.

Roger Barbee is a retired educator who lives in northern Virginia and is moving to the Mooresville area.

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