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This is the Place

A Birmingham Resident on Why Her Heart Called Her Back Home

Article by Laura Kate Whitney

Photography by Kenslie McGuire

Originally published in Birmingham Lifestyle

In the summer of 2015, Birmingham broke my heart. It was a blistering day in late July, and the Crestwood house that I’d called home for five wonderful years turned over to a new family. Life was taking me away from Jones Valley and, while I was excited to pursue a professional opportunity that would allow me to provide an even greater quality of life for my family, I had naively failed to consider just how deeply my heart was connected to this place. To leave Birmingham required me to break apart the home I’d built within the fabric of my own heart.

During my time living in and exploring the Magic City, I’d grown to love the whole of her—the culture, the cuisine, the people, the history — even the scars. My heart had firmly attached itself to the pulse of Birmingham, and now, without proximity to her red clay hills, home suddenly became a place with no heart. I could not have anticipated the weight of this void. 

One definition I’m particularly fond of describes “home” as the abiding place of the affections. If we consider home in this context—the container for our enduring, tender attachments—then perhaps the widely used idiom, “home is where the heart is”, can serve as a sufficient interpretation of the dwelling place that feels nearest and dearest to us. But is it enough? I’m not sure. While I mostly agree with the sentiment, I can’t help but wonder—if one gets broken, is the other bound to break?

When I moved away in 2015, I employed every effort to rebuild my home. In a new yet familiar city, I enjoyed incredible opportunities and met incredible new people and had incredible adventures — yet I was never quite successful in mending the tear that was left wide open when my heart broke away from the life I had built in Birmingham. 

Then, in 2020, the implications of pandemic-fueled quarantine required us all to get more acquainted with our definition of home. While many were utilizing this time to nest, rest and spend more time within their abiding place of affections, I was logging more than 40,000 miles on the road, caught between a house over there and a job over here. The container for all my tender attachments had completely collapsed, and when faced with the decision about where to make a living and, therefore, where to live, I lurched through the opening and came back to the place where my heart is whole. I came straight back to Birmingham.

This is the place where I marvel at the changing of the seasons. This is the place where I observe histories and make sense of today. This is the place where I stand in awe and watch my two sons run and explore and become more of themselves. This is the place where potential blooms in the hands of the community. This is the place where I can be deep in the woods just as easily as I can be in the hustle and bustle of the urban core. This is the place where grit and gumption are the wealth that moves people and their passions forward.This is the place where the foundation of home feels sturdy and solid, like the steel that built the city itself. This is the place where my heart feels home.

This is the place. This is home, with all of my heart.