Widgets Tornadoes at "Home" - A Round-the-World Travel Blog: Devil May Care

Tornadoes at "Home"

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My family moved around a lot when I was young, so the concept of "home" is sort of hazy to me: wherever my stuff and my loved ones are at any given time, or have been for any period of time, qualifies. But if home is a variable, Alabama has always been a constant for me. It's the place where I "grew up."

I spent my high school years wandering around Huntsville, yearning to become an adult and get out into the great wide world. And small as I thought it was back then, Huntsville is where I gained skills and learned life lessons that helped me once I did leave. Beginning journalism consisted of editing interviews with local greasy-spoon legend Eunice or chatting with the political cartoonist from the Huntsville Times for the school magazine. Exploration meant hitching a ride with the older daughter of a family friend and making our way to far-off Vanderbilt, where we could catch a screening of Howards End and dream of exotic locales like London. My views on guns and gun control? They were largely influenced by the (now probably defunct) tradition in which some of the history teachers would bring in their extensive collection of historical firearms, which covered much of America's martial history.  As for character, well, the cast of characters made Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil look like Sense and Sensibility.

True, it wasn't all fantastic. My high school, a foxhole in the war on energy inefficiency, had no windows to stare out from during less than thrilling lectures. But I did learn to type on an IBM Selectric (which gave me some perspective a few years later), and today when I walked down into the souk and haggled with a cobbler who repaired my shoes with fire, I gave thanks for four years of French. There may be better places to become a young man, but allow me my doubts as to their existence.

Huntsville is hurting now, as is much of the rest of Alabama, after a series of tornadoes ripped through the state this week. We've been obsessively glancing through Facebook status updates and Twitter hashtags, learning what is still there and what has been lost. Every story is a little bit of horror, or a moment of relief when I learn that something I treasured remains unscathed.

If you have some to spare, a donation to the Red Cross or other charity working in the area would go a long way.

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