My Ocala: Homeboy x 4 = Back Again

She was standing there at the curb crying, for reasons I knew not why. I was only going to Nashville, not Siberia, and besides, this was my first Great Adventure.


A mother’s tears shed for a son departing from home the first time can never be appreciated or understood until the son becomes a father.


As the parent of a son and daughter who lived in three different time zones until recently, I now know the empty feeling that comes with apartness—even though I am back living in the city of my birth.


We recently moved back to My Ocala from Southwest Florida after living there eight years. It really isn’t My Ocala anymore, as I knew it when I grew up here eons ago, but the name of the city is the same, the charm of the Historical District is blissful, and the rolling hills of U.S. 301/441 are mesmerizing. Even Downtown Ocala seems to have a new energy.


And it feels good to be home.


Again.


This was the last of what my wife counts—unfairly, I might add—of 24 moves for our family. She’s fudging, of course, because she also counts house-to-apartment and house-to-condo moves that were sometimes inspired by her own desire to upgrade.


The point is that when you’ve trekked across states (from Florida to Tennessee to Florida, to New York to Colorado to Florida to Colorado to Florida), just finally settling in one place brings a great sense of relief and tranquility.


If you’re keeping score, like my Joni is doing, this is our fourth time coming home. Once right out of college; a second time after a short six-month stay in Nashville; again in 1996 as a co-owner of Florida Sports Talk Radio; and, now, as the new executive editor of Gator Country Magazine and www.gatorcountry.com.


Spawning salmon have nothing on us.


It feels different this time. We’ve moved out of the old Martin homestead just off Silver Springs Boulevard and north of Fort King, where I was brought as a newborn by Margaret and Wilton Martin after being born at Munroe Memorial Hospital. (Our son, Brenden, who came along to work in the business, now lives there.) And, for those needing to update their change-of-address cards, we’ve purchased the former home of my late sister Shirley and her late husband Armand Lovell on SE 22nd Avenue.


The first thing I wanted to do was dig down for those deep tap roots in this community and re-anchor. In order to accomplish this, we’ve made a point to see our nieces and nephews and their children even more. We started by going to Little League games and attending pizza parties.


I began sorting out some old friends here and there. Realizing how long I’d been gone and how little I knew about Marion County, I asked my old high school friend and football teammate Gerald Ergle, the onetime mayor, to help me set up some “Koffee Klatches” at the downtown Starbucks.


Surprisingly we had sizable turnouts and we talked a lot about sports, a little about local issues, and, on occasion, the Good ‘Ol Days. I met up with old friends and acquaintances like Augie Greiner, Bill Milby, Charlie Lance, Jim and George Stellogeannis, Pamela Stafford, and Kent Guinn. I met some new folks like Jerry and Ron and Robert and Otto and Steve. They talked. I learned.


I’ve also come to appreciate familiar things more.


The recognition of where I’ve landed only arrives in sudden glimpses or intuitions. The beauty of a tree-lined street. The random act of kindness on the road when a driver defers or an unexpected smile from a receptionist in a waiting room. The beauty and comfort of sameness, even in volatile change.


It’s home all right. And it’s my final stopping place.


I think.


Buddy Martin is the executive editor
of Gator Country Magazine and
www.gatorcountry.com.

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