When I was a child I often traveled to Atlanta with my family to go clothing shopping. The exotic stores of Lord and Taylor and fashion forward styles were far superior in my mind to the offerings at Tallahassee department stores. I could not dare wear the same Guess jeans and Esprit that my classmates purchased at Gayfers and Burdines. I would look out of the window of my family Suburban at the high rise apartments and beautiful homes and think, “I’m going to live here when I’m an adult” I vividly imagined myself dining in restaurants with names I could not pronounce and working in the bustling skyscrapers where the fog settled beneath my office window. I grew and yearly imagined myself living in Buckhead but the feeling of homebody-ness tethered me to Tallahassee for my college years and early 20’s. I met Wesley who lived 900 miles away from Tallahassee and eventually we knew we needed to live closer to one another so we looked at big cities and Atlanta was my first choice! Wesley needed some convincing as I think he was hoping for a DC or other Northern city to win the habitation lottery but he got a job and I quickly joined him in Atlanta in 2002.
We lived and loved and grew in the bustling Atlanta metropolis. We joined the High Museum of Art and surrounded ourselves with culture, we ate at tiny restaurants surrounded by friends from Emory Law School loudly arguing the finer points of a law case that Wesley and his classmates were studying, we shopped on weekends looking for the perfect bowl or Brooks Brothers shirt or just walking around looking for the items that will fill our mantelpiece in our hip and chic townhouse. I even worked for a time in an office where fog settled below my office window; it was truly the child’s dream realized and I was here alongside the man to whom I had pledged my life. I was not alone in my Peachtree adventures, I had a companion to see this place with me; our hands excitedly clasped together.
Atlanta was where Wesley and I were fully us and where we changed and grew and loved life. We had our first real jobs, Wesley went to Law school, were married, had a baby and ultimately made the hard decision to leave the bright lights to settle closer to my home in order for Julia to grow up alongside family and cousins. But Atlanta for us was truly the place we went from two separate and distinct entities to a joined life, we became “The Clines” here.
I have not been to Atlanta much since Wesley died. Once with my family for an overnight trip in July 2013 but I was still so in shock over the changes in my life that I recall how I wanted to flee as quickly as I could from places familiar but different to me now. I’m was in Atlanta this week for work and felt strangely out of place and discombobulated on this trip, but I’m more able to process them than I was then. This week it seemed every place I passed had a memory or a trigger that made my heart long for yesterday. I found myself recalling the most mundane and seemingly trivial things as I drove through the streets whose names were familiar. Remembering driving on I-75 to get to countless Junior League of Atlanta meetings, sitting in the Nordstrom Cafe with an infant Julia for hours just to get out of the house, date nights at JCT Kitchen and other Atlanta restaurants. It seemed that every turn my car made these past few days steered me toward memories both good and bittersweet. I found myself longing for my old life; my life that now seems so carefree and bucolic and much like the life of that young girl daydreaming from the window of her parent’s car. Many times over the past few days I fought back tears as I desperately desired to go to my old home and my Atlanta life that seemed complete but knew that I do not belong there any more.
My life is not in Atlanta and I found that I unwittingly had avoided the Peach State for two years because I feared that juxtaposition of two lives that are so different now. I’m no longer that young woman whose life is ordered and predictable, but I’m finding an uneasy peace in that. My life is now centered around my child and soccer games and homework folders and perhaps geography and circumstance does not play as large a role in that as it seemed but just the natural progression of maturation. I happily returned home to my life here, altered as it may be, because this is where I belong. I’m home.