Going Home

This past weekend I traveled home.

I traveled to a familiar and beloved place of my childhood.


There are many ways a person can “go home.” 


I’ve heard the phrase “going home” my entire life.  I first heard it during my childhood – every time my father would pack up the family for a nine hour road trip to head back to where it all began for him… to where he grew up – back to Pinetops, North Carolina.

I always listened to how he would affectionately refer to Pinetops as “home,” with overwhelming love and affection.  I knew that’s where his heart was, where it belonged, and where it would return one day – once all of us kids grew up and he retired from his job in New York.


A week ago, my precious Uncle Wilt traveled back home, too.  He went onto glory to be with the Lord at the age of 87.

Uncle Wilt

Wilton Dickens

He left this earth, leaving behind my dad (and many other siblings), his own children, and a host of grandchildren who loved him dearly.  The sentiments shared at this home going affirmed his faith and his love for family.

tracey newton

We kids called Uncle Wilt Money Man because he’d always give us a dollar, and that was a ton of cash back when I was a growing up.  He was generous, patient, kind and tall!  And he always wore a hat.


He was a cool cat; a man’s man, not unfamiliar to the ways of this world. Then one fine day, in the Autumn of his life, he laid all that down to take up his Cross.  My dad was so happy to be by his side the day he was baptized.

Where it all began

I spent nearly every summer of my childhood in the south, in Pinetops, North Carolina.

Workers picking "soldier peas"

Workers picking “soldier peas”

 He left this earth, leaving behind my dad (and many other siblings), his own children, and a host of grandchildren who loved him dearly.  The sentiments shared at this home going affirmed his faith and his love for family. boiled peanuts

Preparing boiled peanuts

I believe it changed my life.

My parents would drop us kids off at the beginning of summer and we would gleefully house-hop from my grandmother’s home to all our aunt’s and uncle’s homes as we played with a multitude of cousins.  A host of cousins – my dad is one of 13!




I had such a happy childhood – this self-proclaimed city girl – walking barefoot on dirt roads and swinging in my grandmas’ tree swing, all the while complaining about the lack of street lights.

And coming back for my uncle’s funeral made me feel, for the first time in my life, like I, too, was coming home.

The love of a family is a powerful force. 

It can transform a kids life and cause them to blossom like flowers. It affords them a tremendous sense of security.  The older I get, the more I realize and appreciate just how sacred the family circle is…even the extended family circle.  Actually, especially the extended family circle.

Aunt Emma: The Family Matriarch

A family tree is a beautiful thing.  

Mom and her brother, Uncle James Jr.

 We all need deep roots to survive.

Mom and my Dads sister, Aunt Phyllis

Mom and my Dads sister, Aunt Phyllis

And traveling back to North Carolina and being loved on by all of my aunts and uncles and first, second, and third cousins (and then some!), made me feel like a well-watered flower.

Dickens Cousins

The sense of knowing…the sense of familiarity…the sense of belonging is outrageous!

I belong to you.  

We belong to each other.

I have stability.  I have history.  I am not alone.

Family pursues you

. . .when your lost, and alone and feeling broken.

This is me standing by my cousin Monique (in the pink).  Her dad and my mom are siblings.


This is the same cousin who traveled from Maryland to New York to be at my wedding; the wedding that no one was allowed to come to (because I was pregnant out of wedlock and on church discipline).  She was the ONLY family member on my father’s side who made it there.  She just showed up!  And she came to my reception, and then to my home a few months later for a visit, just to check in on cousin Tiff.

Me, Monique, Teresa and Jackie

Then she showed up (with her mom) at a hospital in Virginia when my son had a near fatal car accident on Interstate 95, which landed him in ICU.

She sought me out. She didn’t leave me alone when I was emotionally injured…during some of the toughest times of my life.  Family!

No wonder I’m always by her side. :o)

This is the home of my father’s childhood.

It didn’t look this good when he lived in it. He said it had no siding.



My Dad

This is the home of my mother’s childhood.


She said it actually looked better when she lived there, but still, it wasn’t much to look at.  She was poor – and miserable.

She maintains that it wasn’t being poor that gave her a miserable childhood; it was her family, or rather, the lack of family; in particularly, the absence of her mom and dad.  She says she was no poorer than my dad – who grew up happy.  My dad, whose own father lived the life of a struggling share-cropper.  Yet she maintains the reason my dad was poor and happy was because he had his family.

The Dickens family: a Tree with a father and a mother; a tree with sprawling branches and deeply planted roots.

Now my parents “go home”

. . .and my mom works her garden, where she is usually bent over.


The only way to grow something is to be bent over; to spend your life giving of yourself and investing yourself.  Weeding and pruning and hacking a hoeing.  And not quitting!  She is bent often, and her garden grows beautifully.


And my dad goes home – cause there’s no place like home – to his new home in North Carolina.  The one he is finally able to enjoy in his retirement.  And he walks his property, and he exhales, and fills his lungs with the breath of belonging.


And he feels reconnected.

20150822_095123And yes, I feel it too.

No, it’s not the place of my birth.  It’s not the place that I was primarily raised; but it’s in my blood.  It’s in my psyche.  It’s in my heart.

There’s no place like home…

And there’s no feeling like going home.

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  1. I LOVE your website Tiffiney. I’ve been blessed by the articles I’ve read on your site. So much of your life and back story remind me of my family life and history. I live in Maryland now but I’m born and raised in Spanish Harlem. I left NYC a couple of years ago and lived in TX, then moved to Maryland where I currently am. My mother has the best stories of spending her childhood summers in NC where my grandmother was from.

    • Hi Andrea! I’m so excited that you stopped by! I hope that my adult children can say the same about me: that my life was incredibly enriched by my summers with my NC family. Blessings to you!

    • Hi Sarah, I love my Dickens family like crazy! So much of who I am is because of spending long summers in the south with them. If you come to another reunion, please get my attention so that I can hug your neck!

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