I saw a definition of "Home" on Facebook this morning. It said that home is the place you want to return to again and again, the place you always miss when you are not there. I had to stop and think about that for a few minutes. As a military family, we loved every place we were stationed, and then moved on eagerly to the next assignment. During all those years, home was wherever our family happened to be. And once we moved on, there was no nostalgia dragging us back. What about my childhood home? Well, I have no family there anymore, and almost none of my friends have stayed there, so it doesn't fit the definition, either.
But South Carolina, where I have never lived? Oh yes, this is where I always want to return. Yesterday when we crossed the border between Georgia and South Carolina, my first comment was "It smells better here." Then I realized that there were grass mowers just ahead. I was just luxuriating in the smell of new-mown grass, but it was still symbolic for me. South Carolina is somehow my emotional home. Is it because all my books have been set here? Maybe. Or maybe my books are set here because I love the area. I haven't decided.
We're here this week for several specific reasons:
1. My new book, "The Road to Frogmore ," is just out, and this is the natural place to kick it off -- particularly this week! On Nov. 7, 1861, a Union fleet sailed into the harbor near Hilton Head and took control of the area between Charleston and Savannah for the duration of the Civil War. Historians take note.
2. Out at Boone Hall, re-enactors will be assembling later this week to celebrate the Battle of Secessionville, the battle in which my great-uncle, Sgt. James McCaskey, was killed. See my "A Scratch with the Rebels" for that story.
3. The College of Charleston is kicking off their Jubilee Project--a year-long celebration of Emancipation and its effect on education--on Wednesday evening (Nov. 7), and I've been invited to attend.
4. Down on St. Helena Island, near Beaufort (the setting of "Beyond All Price"), the Penn Center will recognize their founder, Laura M. Towne, as they open their 4-day Heritage Days celebration of Gullah culture. Since Laura Towne is the subject of my new book, that event is important to me.
5. While in Beaufort, I have some preliminary research to do for my next book, which will center on the Leverett family, the people who owned the House used as the regimental headquarters of the Roundhead Regiment during the war, and the setting for episodes in all four of my Civil War books, even "Left by the Side of the Road."
6. And Saturday, Nov. 10, Middleton Place, outside of Charleston, will be holding their yearly "Plantation Days" event, complete with demonstrations and performances, on one of the most beautifully reconstructed plantations in South Carolina. I will be signing books there in the Museum Shop from 2 to 4.
But most important, I love this city. I'm here for all of the above reasons, but also because the weather is sunny and soft, the air is fragrant with sea brine and pluff mud, the people are friendly, the food is astonishingly good, and life moves at a pace that allows time to relish the present, even while remembering the past.