Memories mean more than walls and doors

Structures are torn down, but a sense of home endures

Memories mean more than walls and doors

Illustration by Babeth Lafon

The house where I grew up was torn down to build a new high school. The elementary school I attended exists only in photographs and in my hazy memories of running through its halls. The places that once held the walls and doors of my childhood no longer stand. I used to feel like parts of my life had been erased. However, when I return to Cleveland, Ohio, where I was born and raised, I’m immediately struck by something that tells me I am home—the people.

The friendly, no-nonsense sensibility of Midwesterners and the subtle twang of their accent always feels the same despite the passage of time and distance. There is something familiar and comforting when I am among people who share something in common with me, whether it’s a town or a memory. Streets that I once roamed have changed and so too have the faces of the people who live there now. But the roots and bonds of community will always make the place feel like home.

I met my husband shortly after graduating from law school and moving to Atlanta. We were married in a beautiful brick church that has since been torn down to build the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. And while I was initially saddened to see that gorgeous structure taken down, I know that the memories of my wedding day do not reside in a building. They reside in the laugh my husband still gives me when I say something silly or the way he tightly cups my hand when we are walking together, just as he did on the day we were married.

I was recently interviewed and asked Where do you feel most at home? The answer was easy. I feel most at home when I am with my family, and that is not limited by a particular locale or structure. When I am with my husband and children, I am home. That remains true whether we’re romping along a sunny beach in southern Georgia, touring a foreign city on vacation, or simply enjoying a movie and a bowl of popcorn together in the living room of our house.

With our ever-changing world, I’ve made peace with the loss of the walls and doors of a particular place. That’s because I know that home and the feeling of sanctuary is found whenever I am in the company of the people I love.

Morrisʼs debut novel, All Her Little Secrets, won numerous national awards in 2021. Her new book, Anywhere You Run, was named one of 15 “Standout Historical Fiction Books to Read This Year” by Oprah Daily.

This article appears in our Spring 2023 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.