Why Georgia, Why?

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I’m borrowing from John Mayer’s song title. I love that song! The lyrics are lost and searching and his voice is so sexy and soulful, never mind his rep with the ladies! Today I’m thinking about why I’ve made Georgia my home.

I moved here for love the summer of 2002, just before I turned 29. I had been long distance dating my then boyfriend since the summer of 2001 when we became a thing at our ten year high school reunion. He had been flying out to visit me in California each month and I a couple times to Georgia as well.

Each night I made sure I got his 7pm call to chat with him before he went to bed. It was fun at first, but it became a bit of a bother! I was still full of pep, chatty and inquisitive and he engaged with me at first, but then he’d yawn and his conversation would become sleepy. I’d tell him go to bed, but he’d say no, that he was fine. Before I knew it, it became obvious that he had fallen asleep with me on the other line mid-sentence.

In spring of 2002, I was visiting him in Georgia. We were walking along the Chattahoochie River near Riverside Drive when I posed, “So, where is this relationship going? Are you ready for the next step: one of us moving across the country for the other?”

I remember he didn’t say much and looked a bit nervous. I mean, this is kind of conversation that guys supposedly dread. I had been living in California for ten years, since leaving our mutual hometown, and he had been living in Georgia for some time, too. We had talked some on the phone about eventually one of us moving, but we never decided which one of us would take the plunge. I offered, “I will move here for you.” He instantly was relieved. He didn’t want to move, but I did. The idea getting to experience a big change, yet be with someone I felt safe with, was exciting to me.

So, my dad volunteered to drive in my Honda Hatchback with me to my new shared two bedroom apartment with my then boyfriend into Post Crest Apartments in the Cumberland area of Atlanta, close to Smyrna and the popular Vinings area.

We’ve made commitments since…we got engaged in Callaway Gardens the summer of 2003 and bought our first home together that same year. We married in 2004 at Christ the King in Atlanta with our reception at the Grand Hyatt. We have had two sons in 2007 and 2010 both born at Northside Hospital in Atlanta. Along the way, I got into running for a while and completed two marathons and a handful of half marathons. I taught elementary school for about a decade here and he progressed well in his technical career as a software engineer, supporting the sales guys with his know-how. Now, in 2014, our sons are four and almost seven and I am a stay-at-home mom. We have settled in Cumming, Georgia, just a stone’s throw from Alpharetta in the county of Forsyth, an hour north of Atlanta.

Coming from California, things that came to mind of Georgia that left a sour taste in my mouth were: those still flying the confederate flag from the Civil War, rednecks, racism, ultra-conservative types, southern drawl just butchering all the grammar rules I hold on a pedestal, and condemning Bible-belters. All of this does still exist, but does not define Georgia. Georgia just happens to house these sorts of people, but also many open-minded, progressive people as well. Elton John and Jane Fonda made Atlanta their home for years.

I’ve changed. I love southern drawl now. I used to wince at it. Now I find it so charming. I am embracing my inner y’all. Y’all come on over. I find it sassy and sweet at the same time. Atlanta is full of non-natives so it’s not everywhere, but it’s still here. It makes me smile. Ain’t that special?

I sort of like rednecks now, not the ignorant kind. But, the kind that like the outdoors and aren’t pretentious. Duck Dynasty has made the term redneck more humorous and less foul. But, there are people here proud to be redneck. They are proud to listen to country and drive a pick-up truck. They are proud to fish and hunt. They are proud to dress in jeans and cowboy boots. I still have my reservations as I think of rednecks as set in their ways–some good, but some bad and intolerant. However, the redneck that’s up for a fun, country adventure and is willing to, at the very least, listen and hear out another point of view–I like that guy/girl.

I don’t find the Bible belters condemning. Yes, it is true—when you live in the South and you begin to develop a friendship with someone, you may be asked, “What church do you go to?” People go to church here. More land goes to mega-churches in the South than in other parts of the U.S. There are fewer skeptics and more believers here. Church is a way of life. But, I find people accept that you may go to a different church. They just like to know where you go and maybe they are hoping you might share that in common so that they can see you there as well.

You will, on occasion, when in a very country part of town, drive by a home with a confederate flag. Their great grandparents must have driven it in to them. Maybe they’ve had a picture of great, great grandpa in uniform on their mantle for years and they think it’s a show of their loyalty and pride in him and their heritage instead being a symbol for slavery and discrimination. For the most part, people don’t fly those flags anymore. They know it comes with a racist and redneck of all rednecks reputation.

Despite all the stereotypes of the South, there are a lot transplants like me that have moved here for a job or for love. Atlanta and the greater Atlanta area has been the number one place in the U.S. people are moving for the last few years. It is home to many Fortune 500 companies and an affordable place to live. We transplants have come to love it and we call it home now.

Why Georgia? I love the tall, deeply rooted pines and grand magnolias. I love the rivers, lakes, and mountains. The weather is wonderful. Yes, July is sweltering and humid, but the rest of the year is pleasant and you can’t beat fall and spring here. Every few years we are delighted by a winter snowfall and we wipe the dust of our sleds, ride down the hilliest spot we can find, build a snowman, and make snow angels. School is closed, of course, as it happens so infrequently we don’t have the infrastructure to be equipped for it. I love the plethora of vacation spots to choose from: the coast and gulf shores of Florida, the lakes and beaches of the Carolinas, the islands of Georgia and its mountains, and the ever-popular and charming Savannah. I love swimming in warm waters. The Pacific off California is beautiful, but you have to boldly take a swim without a wet suit.

Atlanta has so many well-known spots: touring the World of Coke and the CNN Center, oh the Botanical Gardens is so worth seeing, all the festivals in Piedmont Park, seeing the baby gorilla and lion cubs at the shady Zoo Atlanta, watching the dolphins and beluga whales at Georgia Aquarium, seeing The Nutcracker at the famous Fox Theatre, taking the kids to learn about dinosaurs and electricity at the Fernbank or for interactive play at the Children’s Museum, viewing your favorite art period at the High Museum, having a girlie luncheon at the Swan House, a girls’ shopping day in the Virginia Highlands, having high tea at the Ritz Atlanta, or going to a Braves game at Turner Field…soon the new stadium will be in Cumberland where my first apartment was here in Georgia. All of these I have done and more living here these last eleven years. I love going to Lake Lanier and taking the kids for the day to Six Flags amusement park. Then there are the low key vacation spots that aren’t as well-known where we love to go to: Cape San Blas, Florida and just a short trip away to the mountains in Big Canoe, Georgia where there is an awesome rock slide and a little lake with pedal boats and canoes to use.

I love Georgia. It’s my home now. I’m not a native, but I have chosen to let Georgia adopt me and Georgia has been so good to me. So, why Georgia? Why not!

photo credit: wallyg via photopin cc