“There are places I remember all my life,
Though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain.
All these places have their moments
Of lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I loved them all.”
– Places I Remember by The Beatles
I was born and raised mostly in Miami, Florida. When I was very young, my family spent a few years in Brevard, North Carolina, where my father was born. We also lived in Kentucky for a short time afterward while my father was stationed there in the Army. Growing up in Miami, we spent almost every summer visiting North Carolina. My paternal grandfather ran an annual family reunion and we looked forward to attending every year.
As I got older, I began to feel drawn to the beautiful mountains of western North Carolina. Whenever I would feel overwhelmed with traffic, with clashing cultures, etc, I would day dream of moving to North Carolina and living a simpler life. I moved to North Carolina the day after my 18th birthday. My grandparents spent every summer in North Carolina, and that year I would join them and live and work with them. I planned on enrolling in the Brevard College to begin a degree in the fine arts in the fall.
I lasted about a month. I frantically called a boyfriend in Miami and had him drive up to pick me up. I just couldn’t do it – I found I wasn’t really cut out for the small town country life. There was nothing to do with people my own age. There was nowhere to go to have fun. My days were spent building a house with my grandparents or driving around old country roads admiring the scenery or looking for yard sales. Nights were spent watching the news, talking about family members, visiting my grandmother’s side of the family that remained in the town.
I loved it and hated it all at the same time. I longed for people my own age. The town was so small, I was an outsider. Without having grown up there, there was no way for me to make friends, to enter their social atmosphere, to belong. I loved being with my grandparents, with their friends, with the Pridmore side of the family. But I didn’t fit in. Once it stopped feeling like a vacation, I was miserable. So I went home.
Throughout the years, two of my three sisters have also attempted the transition from big city life to small town life. While they both enjoyed their time there, it just didn’t quite work out for either of them.
I just returned home from a week long visit during the annual family reunion. I didn’t want to come home. While driving home, I began to think about what it would take for me to move to North Carolina again and live their successfully. My husband has grown to love it there as much as I have and would jump at the chance to move up there. That’s not the problem. The problem is, I am not quite sure why I feel compelled to live there, and I don’t want to make the move and leave the life I have worked so hard to build here in Florida until I am sure it is the right decision for us.
I love my NC family. They are larger than life. They hug you so hard when they see you that you are afraid your ribs will crack. They stop by all the time to sit on the porch for hours, drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes and chatting. They always have a smile on their face. I used to think I wanted to live there simply because I loved that side of the family so much. As I have grown older, I realize that if I left Miami to live near that side of the family, I would miss my Miami so much that I would probably want to move back home to be nearer to them. Its a lose-lose situation.
I love the mountains. I love the smell of dogwood blooming in the spring and throughout the summer. I love the thick blanket of fog that hangs over the Blue Ridge Mountains until 10 am. I love sitting on the back porch for hours, watching the white squirrels – which I believe are only found in Brevard – scampering about on the mountain behind our house. I love the fact that no matter where you go, when you make eye contact, people smile.
What don’t I love? The fact that there is no work in Western North Carolina. My husband has a serious career as a Systems Administrator for the Military. What kind of job would he be able to secure if we moved? There are no military bases in the Smoky Mountains. Best case scenario, he might be able to commute to Asheville, about an hour away, and land a job in an office making half of what he is making now.
In most of Western North Carolina, there’s a church on every corner. Living in Miami, the fact that I am not religious doesn’t matter. If I were to live right smack in the middle of the Bible Belt, my lack of religious fervor would surely make me an outsider. I know those small towns. I realize that the church is the center of all social activity. How would I meet people outside the family? What would the neighbors think when I threw an all night party and people staggered out of my house at 4 am? Because in Miami, no one bats an eyelash and some of the neighbors even join us.
What if I ended up living in a dry county? I’m no alcoholic, but a girl needs her Mai Tais on a Saturday night. What if I suddenly got the urge to go dancing at 11 pm? Would I even want to drive to Asheville to hit a club that closes at 2 am?
The more I think about it, the more I realize I am just not ready. So I will continue to drive 12 hours to visit every chance I can…until one day, I just decide not to drive home.