This post is a little late, but I didn’t feel like writing for a while and I need to backtrack a bit before I can focus on the present.
We took a quick trip to Atlanta at the beginning of April, one week exactly (almost to the hour). My husband knows how hard the separation from our oldest child is on me, and since he’s the kind of person that is all about showing his love in tangible ways, he took some vacation time and worked out all the details and just said “we’re going”. So we went.
It was a great trip, really everything went perfectly. We left at six in the morning on a Saturday and drove straight through to Roanoke, Virginia. So many states to cross as you travel down the east coast… nothing like those giant empty spaces out west. Although our younger boys have traveled coast to coast, going down the eastern seaboard was a new experience for them so it was pretty exciting. I grew up in Florida and spent my entire childhood (and a fair amount of my young adult years as well) going back and forth from Maine to Florida, but it has been twenty years since I was down south so it was a big deal for me too. I am continually struck by how much my attitude about different places keeps changing as I get older- I really do see things with new eyes and a fresh perspective and it’s one thing I love about getting older. I’m much more open-minded now than I was when I was young.
Sunday was an easier drive, just six hours or so to arrive in Atlanta. We checked into our hotel on the outskirts of the city, the plan being to stay there for a few days while we visited with Alex. He lives downtown, right in the middle of the city, but hotels downtown were a lot more expensive and in some cases already booked. I think there are a lot of conventions and things like that in Atlanta, plus we inadvertently picked school vacation week to visit. As homeschoolers it’s hard to think of things like that!
The hotel was great, people were so friendly and polite. The southern charm is very real, and it is such a contrast to the northeast way of interacting. I had to keep reminding myself to be friendly, to make eye contact and smile. I’m not at all an unfriendly person, but I am kind of shy and reserved in public and of course you just get used to the way it is wherever you live. New England reserve is also very real, and the Boston to DC corridor is probably the rudest place in the country. Atlanta is a big city full of transplants so not everyone acts the same way, but in general we found that once we went below the Mason-Dixon line people became noticeably friendlier.
The next three days went way too quickly. We had so much fun, seeing the city and eating good food. I had never been to Atlanta and had only driven through Georgia a few times. My husband had been a couple of times for work but hadn’t been too impressed by what he had seen. There is so much to do and of course three days isn’t nearly enough to do it all. We walked around Piedmont Park, ate at Victory Sandwich Bar and saw some cool neighborhoods out that way, saw Midtown, walked from Alex’s apartment to the Downtown area and Centennial Park. We ate some good ethnic food near our hotel- bibimbap at Big Joy and $5 taco plates at Tacos La Villa. We met Alex’s girlfriend and took everyone out for a fancy lunch at JCT Kitchen, then visited the Georgia Aquarium.
Alex only had three days off from work, and Wednesday came all too quickly. On our last day we ate burgers at Yeah! Burger and then went to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. We also intended to see the Center for Civil and Human Rights museum, but decided to do this first since it was free and then didn’t have enough time for both. It was a moving experience, and I look forward to seeing the other museum in a future trip.
By Wednesday evening I was feeling pretty sad. It was great to see our son, to see the city, to get to know more about his life; but three days just didn’t seem like enough. We could have stayed longer but he was going to be busy working so we decided to head home. I thought we would take an extra day or two driving home to see something along the way but found I didn’t really have the heart for it. The kids were ready to be home so they didn’t mind. We did drive a stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway, which was pretty. The mountains are more like hills compared to Colorado, but we enjoyed the scenery and thought Virginia was especially nice.
The weather was perfect down south, and we ended up coming home on Friday to dreary cold, wet weather. Actually we left that kind of weather and then came back to it. Spring comes late to northern New England, and it was hard to go from the warmth and green back to April in Maine. I missed my son. Some things are going very well for us here, but in many ways it’s been like starting all over again. I thought this would be the easy option, that I could just slide back into my old life, but it didn’t work out that way. Three years is a long time, and I’m not the only one who has changed. Everyone else has changed too, and the community I once had has largely disappeared. I still have a few friends that I see regularly, and a larger circle of old friends and acquaintances that I never really see but I know they’re out there, but it’s not the same as it used to be. I feel like the heyday of my homeschooling social life is gone and it’s probably not coming back.
Which is okay. I can go in a new direction, but it’s just not clear yet what that direction is. I’m still a staunch advocate for home education, and ironically it’s going better in my own family than it ever has- I truly love what we do and my kids are thriving. But I’m having to let go of old ways of thinking about things, accept that times have changed and that I may not find my niche in that community any longer.
So April was a little gloomy and I spent some time brooding, talking to my husband, doing what I usually do when these moods descend. May arrived with a week of rainy weather which didn’t exactly lift my spirits. There is usually a pattern to the down times in life- it’s not just one big thing, but a whole lot of little things. Meanwhile, I’m feeling horribly guilty because I know that my life is blessed and I should just be grateful, but the small stuff can be hard to ignore. Knowing how much worse it can be is cold comfort when you’re feeling blue.
But this last week was my redemption. The sun came out, the kids had spring fever and I took a deep breath and let myself relax. We went outside and let nature work its magic. I remembered to appreciate what I have.