Worsham Street Looks The Same
But Mama and Daddy Don’t Greet Me
The old home town looks the same as I step down from the train, and there to greet me is my mama and my papa…it’s good to touch the green, green grass of home.
When Claude “Curly” Putman, Jr. wrote these lyrics in 1965, he was a wannabe songwriter plugging songs for Tree Publishing company in Nashville, Tennessee, and he couldn’t have realized at the time the impact they would have on his life. Country music legend Porter Waggoner recorded the song later that year and Curly Putman’s writing career ignited like a firecracker that kept popping out hit after hit from then on. The words inspired more than four hundred artists to record them over the next fifty years in all of the world’s major languages. Why?
Because it’s a song about going home which is a universal longing whether it’s for a literal place or a metaphorical sense of wholeness – we want to go home. We want to be welcomed and embraced by those who love us most whether we are Prodigals who lost our way for a long time wandering in a wilderness of self absorption or whether we are Victors who fought the good fight over ourselves and won a precious trophy we need to share. We want to go home.
I grew up in a rural setting in a tiny town in southeast Texas in a county that measured wealth by the number of cows you owned or the number of acres you farmed. My dad bought 105 acres in 1954 through the GI Bill from his WWII service in the Army Air Corps and we never had more than twenty head of cattle except in the spring when the calves were born, but that was okay because the farm wasn’t our home. My daddy and mama were schoolteachers in the 1950s and we lived in my maternal grandmother’s house with her and my mother’s two older brothers. It was a small home and we were in very close quarters every day, but the closeness I remember was the intimacy we shared as a family.
When Curly Putman penned his Green, Green Grass of Home, I had left my home town and was a student at The University of Texas in Austin. My freshman classes often had more students than the entire population of the little town where I was from. My daddy taught me many lessons, but the ones he may have regretted teaching involved my becoming independent to a fault and understanding the whole earth was my territory. I took him at his word and became a solitary sojourner from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean before finally settling in a city two hours from the Atlantic Ocean. That was forty-five years ago and my definition of home expanded when I found lasting loving relationships as an adult in South Carolina.
Through the years I’ve made the trip to Texas at least a hundred times to visit and two years ago my partner and I bought the Worsham Street house pictured above which is eighteen miles from the place that belonged to my grandmother, the place I once called home. The principal characters in my family were gone except for my mother whose illness was the impetus for our purchasing the house in Texas. My visits became more frequent and lasted longer as my mother’s health declined. In the process of reconnecting to the places and people I knew in my childhood over the past two years I heard my daddy’s voice reminding me “You can take the girl out of Texas but you can’t take Texas out of the girl.”
Three days ago I once again traveled the thousand miles from South Carolina to Worsham Street. I was surprised by my feelings as I crossed the Louisiana-Texas border going west toward the familiar Highway 59 that would take me south toward home. For the first time ever, and I mean in nearly fifty years, I had the uneasy sensation I wasn’t really going to where I belonged. At the end of this journey neither my mama nor my daddy would be there to greet me and I felt like the green grass might be growing in foreign soil.
I talked to one of my neighbors who is also a good friend about the conflicting emotions I was experiencing in this first trip to Texas since my mother’s death in April. I’d only been gone three months, but it felt much longer and the distance from my South Carolina family seemed too far. She said something that made sense to me, “It’s a different type home now.” It is a different type home, but the green grass still grows on Worsham Street, and I’m glad to be able to touch it once again.