“Homecoming,” Oct. 29, 2018

A lifetime ago, I grew up in these blue mountains on the border between the Carolinas. After college, I moved to California, to raise a family and live the life of my dreams. I’ve often come “home” for visits. Too often, for funerals. But this trip, if partly for work, was mostly for pleasure.

It began with a speaking engagement in Winston Salem, where my column has been carried for years. People I’d never met asked to see photos of my grandkids. It felt (I say with a wink) like a family reunion … without the fist fights.

After the talk, and a lot of hugs, I drove 150 miles south and rented a cabin on a lake in Landrum, S.C., the town where I grew up. My sister wanted me to stay at her place, but I said I had to work. When I stay with her, not much work gets done.

For the past four days, I’ve spent a little time working and a lot of time with family and friends,  and beavers and ducks and geese and squirrels and leaves turning red and gold.

My dad loved to fish. He wanted me to love it, too. I never did. But I did learn to love the peace that can be found sitting beside still water.

Some of us, maybe all, feel a physical connection to nature –especially to the land where we grew up — that is as real and as comforting as anything we feel for flesh and blood.

That doesn’t mean we like mountains more than people. It just means that, to feel whole, we need time with both.

I wanted time with family and friends. But I also wanted time alone with these mountains, with red dirt and still water and a full Carolina moon — and with leaves that are dying in a dazzling blaze of glory.

The day after I arrived, my sister and I picked up our brother in Spartanburg, and took him to Wade’s, his favorite restaurant. Joe is blind, but knows the menu by heart.

“I’ll have meatloaf, mac ‘n’ cheese, macaroni salad and cole slaw,” he told the server, “and sweet iced tea, please.”

When the food came, Joe said grace. “Heavenly Father, thank you that I can be with both of my sisters today. Bless this food to our bodies and us to your service. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

We ate and talked for an hour, telling stories, old and new.

That evening, my nephew’s daughter, who trains horses for a living, and her brother, a high school senior, showed me videos of their rodeo competitions and talked about their love for riding and roping and occasionally getting thrown to the ground.

Yesterday, with a chill in the air, I stayed in the cabin and sat at a window watching shadows of clouds and geese and gusts of wind glide across the lake.

Last night, my sister and I had dinner with friends we’ve known almost forever and reminisced about others who are no longer with us. Then I drove back to the lake, bundled up in a blanket and sat alone on the dock in the dark, counting stars on the water and blessings in my life.

This morning, around 4 a.m., I awoke in bed to an old familiar sound: Rain falling on a tin roof.

I wish you could’ve heard it.

I drifted back to sleep for a while, dreaming dreams I can’t recall. Finally, I got up to make coffee and watched the mist rise off the lake.

It’s been raining all day. I’ve been writing. Writing and rain make good company.

Tonight I’ll have one last supper with my sister and we’ll say a long, hard goodbye. Then tomorrow, Lord willing, I’ll go back to my other home, to my husband and children and grandchildren and friends, to the life and the land I love on the coast of California.

But I’ll take with me the gift of the time I’ve spent here with family and friends, a good lake for fishing (even if I don’t fish) and these old blue mountains.

Home isn’t a person or place you visit. It’s a feeling you carry with you in your heart.



  1. Paul Noble says

    Sharon, I read you commentary in the Decatur Daily newspaper in Decatur Alabama. You do have a very nice way to touch peoples hearts. I appreciate you writings very much.

  2. Sharon, please include me on your list for your new book

  3. Bonnie Martin says

    Dear Sharon, every single one of your columns reach me in some deep way as does this one. I’m was born in Ozark MO, a little town outside bustling Springfield and it’s my happy/sad place in life that I return to visit at least twice a year..I drive by the house we used to live in which is no longer the same house but the shed is the same one where my dad butcherd hogs and my mother cut up the chickens after she’d wrung their necks..then it’s on to the courthouse square where I picture my beloved late sister standing on the steps posing for a Brownie Kodak picture then on to the only school in town where she took me with her one day when I was three years old and she was nine and I kept saying loudly that I was hungry till the teacher gave me a sucker to shut me up and I never got to visit that school again! Next stop is a place called Garrison Springs; it’s a lovely little stream that meanders through the town and a place my brothers, sister and myself played and waded and screamed and ran when we saw crawdads dart toward us cause we just knew they’d nip off our toes. My last stop is the town cemetery where my dad, my grandfather who was a civil war veteran, my uncle and two brothers are buried and I stop and clean up the graves a bit and reflect on my beginnings in that little town and the bittersweet memories I have of it and I always shed some sad tears but somehow the ghosts I see are mostly friendly ones and before long I’m planning my next trip back to where I began.

  4. Sharon,
    I can’t wait for your new book, when is it coming out?

    Saratoga Springs,NY

  5. Kate Sciacca says

    Oh my goodness! You painted a perfect picture again, and took all of us on a five minute vacation to Carolina. Nothing better than the sound of rain on a tin roof… or any roof. Walking in the northern Nevada chill yesterday I was awestruck by the particular beauty this fall. I could see for miles and miles – mountains to the east, the west and the south. Grand, powerful, solid mountains. Don’t know why, but this year the colors are more vibrant – and the sky the deepest blue… maybe because all the fires have been extinguished earlier than usual? Grateful for that.
    Grateful for you sharing your joys and sorrows and everything in between with us.

  6. Richard Pagnillo says


    James W Peterson echoes what I have been telling you for years. Write the book!!!!!

    Monterey, CA

  7. Davey Myers says

    I know many of us find ourselves in your words Sharon. I sure did in this article. Memories of time on my lake, watching the hills turn glorious shades of red, orange, yellow, brown and green and listening to rain on the roof. Loved walking through the leaves in the evening with the warm fall wind in my face. They were the best years of my youth. I’ll be back in the Spring to watch it all come back to life and spend time with family and friends. Its so good to have you back in our neck of the woods. Hope to see you soon. Love, Davey

  8. I’m so glad you’re “home” In California. You are such a blessing!

  9. Linda lee bassett says

    Reminds me of my life in Michigan ..so miss the lake nd weather…but have lived in California for years.thanks for sharing..Linda lee

  10. James W Peterson says

    Ms Randall,
    Can I be placed on a list to be one of those folks who purchase your next book?

    El Paso, Texas

Speak Your Mind