In 2003, my boyfriend and I discussed places we might live together. Not together as in the same house, but together as in the same city. Because we'd never done that. Pacific Northwest? "Too rainy," I said. Northeast? "Too cold," I said. Asheville, North Carolina? "Hmmm...I prefer the South; I love mountains." And so we moved. He in 2004, me in 2005.
We left Asheville as a family of four in 2012, and I am still not over it. I'm a lucky girl; I found a true home in Asheville, NC. I fit in the culture of that city like nowhere else I will ever live, and I am still bound, two years later, by the grief of leaving.
I miss our house. I miss the crooked, patched floors and the creepy basement. I miss the tiny woodstove and the hearth I tiled the day I had the miscarriage, mentally burying my baby beneath the tiles. I miss the way the sunshine changed the kitchen throughout the day, and the peaceful feel of a summer morning in our bedroom, waking in sunlight to cool sheets and a cooing baby. I miss the neighbor's ethereal dogwood tree by which I marked the seasons while lying on the couch in the living room.
Now I live in the suburbs of a teeming metropolis, and truthfully, I find happiness here. We actually live in a more social neighborhood than we did in Asheville, and DC, of course, offers so many cultural opportunities. The schools are better for our children, and I have the opportunity to stay home with them at present. For heaven's sake, I just voted in a primary where the incumbent, the first openly gay man in that particular position, was being challenged by a transgender woman. That's miles from NC (where there is an actual Constitutional Amendment banning gay marriage) and where if you're teacher, your rights and pay are being steadily and systematically stripped away.
wild, accessible forests. I miss the accents and the banjoes, and the mix of Old South to young hipster and everything in between (but the hippies most of all). I miss the beer, and the homemade goat cheese, and that huge, prolific weeping cherry tree that I made sure to drive past every spring. I miss living somewhere that felt like home.
Last weekend, I was telling my sister and brother-in-law of my latest experiments in hippie-dom, or my all-natural lifestyle. And my brother-in-law said, "But you don't live in Asheville any longer," as if I only baked bread, gardened, or gave birth at home because of where I lived (though it was easier to do there than here). In actuality, Asheville helped my natural tendencies blossom. And now I'm once again an oddball in a culture with a driving pace, making granola, going bra-less, and letting my children run around naked.
Next June a good friend in that area will be turning 50, and we are invited to his party. I'll return to Asheville for the first time for that event. It will be painful, and not just because some of the people responsible for our departure will be at that party. I will have to endure the heartbreak of seeing that skyline and those beautiful mountains, of possibly driving past the home where our babies were born, and certainly driving the streets and highways that were once so familiar, passing the shops and restaurants we once frequented but whose employees would never recognize us now.
I will have to enter those city limits as an outsider, homesick for the city I am in but to which I no longer belong, homesick for that sense of belonging.
It's been nearly two years since we left, and it is probably time to tackle that grief head on. Today, when this video appeared in my News Feed, I watched it. And I made it through.