The warmth of hometown friends, family - Billy Corriher

Last Thursday night, driving back to Atlanta after spending the day with my family shoving deep-fried turkey in our mouths, I was flooded with fond memories of my childhood home.

Maybe the Tryptophan just got to me, but I found myself reminiscing, thinking of the closeness and warmth I had felt growing up in a small Southern town where everybody knew one another.

People often remark of the friendliness and laid back nature of small-town Southerners. And I think all of that stems from a kind of kinship that develops when everyone is familiar.

Life in bigger cities does not usually offer such fellowship. In Cherryville, N.C., it's usually a given.

I feel like I can be myself the most when I return to my hometown and pay a visit to old friends. After all, the people who know me best are the ones who've known me the longest.

It's still possible in bigger cities to develop strong bonds with friends, but for me, there are no relationships like the ones you hold on to from childhood.

As a teenager, I cursed the boredom of small town life and swore I'd leave, never to return. But the experience of living in a community of strangers has made me more appreciative.

I was enveloped by homesickness when I left home for college, but by my second year I was too busy appreciating all that college had to offer to be nostalgic.

I don't regret going off to college and leaving my hometown, because it's changed my life and who I am in unimaginable ways. And I had the chance to develop an open-mindedness and experience much more that the world had to offer.

But it seems that the older I get, every trip back to tiny Cherryville, North Carolina seems a little shorter. I find myself yearning for the contentment of knowing I am in the company of people who know me, people who care.

The longer I spend time away from home, the more my life experience has taught me that maybe there's nothing better than sitting on a front porch with good friends. There's no other place in the world where I can feel that comfortable.

Last week, I gave thanks that, no matter where I go, there's always a chair on a friends' front porch with my name on it.

And though I may never live in Cherryville again, I know that the farther I get away from that small town, the more I will cherish the comforts that came with it.

Billy Corriher covers government and politics for the News Daily. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753 Ext. 281 or at bcorriher@news-daily.com.