This Christmas has been a milestone in many ways. It is only the second time I have ever been away from my parents for the holiday (the first was 1997, when I moved in with my wife and was living in Cleveland, Ohio), and it is the first time I’ve spent Christmas in Georgia. What makes it more than just a milestone, what makes it special, is something far more magnificent – a discovery or, moreover, a rediscovery.
I found myself again.
There is something truly special about Georgia for me, and not just that I spent my college days here. In 1984, I first drove through this state on my way to Florida with my family for a Walt Disney World vacation. I felt something truly amazing as we passed through on Interstate 95. Then, my father and drove through it again on our way to Florida in 1989 when we moved to the Tampa Bay area. Each and every time we came through Georgia, something different but something truly remarkable happened.
I felt at home.
The truly astonishing part of this is that I have never really had a place to call “home.” I was born in northern New Jersey, but it was only my home for the first six months of my existence. New York, where all my other siblings were born, was only home for four years, then it was onto Pennsylvania, where I spent 11 long, difficult years. Florida was where my family finally settled down, and where I graduated high school, and where my wife and I really started a life together, but it was still never truly “home” for me. For some strange reason, I knew where my home was; where I truly belonged.
This has been where I spent some of the most amazing, magical and dramatic days of my life. Within the borders of this land, I have been transformed many times, in many ways. Of all the most important times of my life, the vast majority of them were spent here. My heart and soul belongs here, and for that reason, the greatest single Christmas gift ever given to me was received this year, a little over five months ahead of schedule. I was finally able to call the State of Georgia by one single word.