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Posted: May 23, 2010 12:00 a.m.

The magic of home

My little boy is getting married. That, in and of itself, ought not to startle me. After all, he's 25 years old. By the time I was that age Louise and I had celebrated our fourth anniversary. But it gets me, I suppose, since Davis is the last of three babies God allowed us to raise here in this special place they'll always remember as "home."

Last Tuesday I took Davis up I-85 to Greensboro, N.C., to retrieve some furniture his oldest sister, Francie - now expecting our second grandchild - wanted him to have. We mostly talked about business issues involved with marriage: things like transferring various insurances and car titles, combining cell phone providers, having all identification documents bear the same names, and other "nuts-and-bolts" things that sometimes get overlooked.

But we also rambled down memory lane, recalling everything from the ridiculous to the sublime. We remembered the years spent at City Pond Parks playing recreation league baseball, and more than a decade of music lessons with the late Freeman "Free" Rowe teaching keyboards, and how Davis spent nearly his whole life in just one house while over those 25 years American families averaged changing addresses every six years.

Somewhere between Charlotte and Clemson - where his sister Christie matriculated - Davis caught a quick nap. While he snoozed, I thought about the myriad of little things that comprise the foundation, bricks and mortar that serve to make a childhood home relevant.

There was the blessing our kids had of knowing three of their four grandparents; the extended family from the time America grew into the greatest nation on earth has become a rarity nowadays.

All three were baptized in Covington's First United Methodist Church and grew up attending Sunday school, Vacation Bible School and youth group there. As adults, all three continue to lead faith-based lives; they practice doing things the right way.

It was pleasant to see Lake Hartwell at full pool as we thundered across the state line back into Georgia. Davis awoke and we recounted the drought experienced by Covington and Newton County not long after his arrival in 1985. Changes to our world since his birth compose a dizzying collage of images, indeed.

He was too young to remember when County Commission Chairman Roy Varner looked into building a second reservoir to avert the consequences of subsequent droughts; today Lake Varner forms the Cornish Creek Reservoir, which sustained our neck of the woods in the dry years of the early 21st century.

But Davis did recall there being no bypass road around Covington, and that the Newton County Schools were then comprised of only one high school, two middle and seven elementary schools. And he remembered well the era before cell phones from a night when my wife brought the kids to see me coach a basketball playoff game. Our 1971 Oldsmobile broke down on the way home on I-20, and they spent an anxious couple of uncomfortable hours before being rescued by a Newton County Sheriff's deputy.

Somewhere around the Commerce exit Davis told me he'd be coming home Thursday to get a haircut. And it hit me that through all the years of music camps from Kansas to Michigan to the Governor's Honors Program in Valdosta, through the years at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music in Bloomington, from international summer trips to Bolivia, Kenya, Ethiopia, the Czech Republic, England and who knows where else, Davis always came home to have his hair cut.

You see, there are still a few of us who know the joy of having our own barber; an even fewer very lucky ones have spent time over on Mill Street in Lewis Mason's magical chair. Lewis has been a barber for 52 years now. Along about 20 years ago he decided it was cutting into his golf time, but instead of announcing his retirement, Lewis just raised his prices, figuring folks would stop coming to see him.

Well, they kept coming, and Lewis still cuts hair at 80. They say he shoots his age on a golf course, but that may fall into the realm of barber shop legends. Anyway, Lewis should know by now that he could triple his prices and folks would still keep coming to see him because it's not all about the haircut. The man is a barber, philosopher, friend, counselor, patriarch, grandfather and sage knower of all things important to the faithful.

So last Thursday one of the faithful came home. Bound for Illinois the next day, then to play a concert in the Philippines before tying the knot next Saturday in south Georgia, my little boy needed the last haircut he'd ever get as a single man. And that could only happen in one place. At home. In the magical chair of Lewis Mason.

Nat Harwell is a long-time resident of Newton County. His columns appear regularly on Sundays.

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