Lately I've been looking at Charlotte through the lens of leaving it.
We have moved so much that every now and again, a memory of a previous home will drift through my mind. Growing up in Roanoke, going to college in Farmville (yeah that's real), back to Roanoke for my first real job and grad school, then Charlottesville to write my thesis and work in a coffee shop while Rob got his master's degree. Back to Roanoke once more before Minneapolis, and then, finally to Charlotte, North Carolina; where we started to put down the roots that will have to be gently pulled in September when we move to California.
So sometimes when I'm driving on a freeway in Virginia or North Carolina, suddenly I'm on the road from Bloomington to Eden Prairie or Minnetonka, where I'd work temp jobs that first autumn in Minnesota while trying to turn my blog into my full-time job. One of my first days was on Halloween, and it snowed as I answered the phone and transferred calls.
There were pink skies and blue sailboats and coconut soft-serve milkshakes from The Wedge Co-Op in the summer, and when I first looked it up I accidentally misread it as "wedge coop," which is what we still call it in a funny little voice. We lived for outdoor happy hours and the spiciest chicken wings you will ever eat in uptown Minneapolis every week, and sometimes we'd stay home and order takeout from the best little hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant I've ever encountered. We planned our wedding and we got married and we came back from our honeymoon to a place that really did feel like home even though we hadn't lived there very long.
And sometimes when I'm elsewhere, getting coffee or meeting a friend for dinner, I already think about Charlotte and my favorite seat at the bar of Not Just Coffee in Uptown; or the burgers we eat almost every weekend at Bad Daddy's (I always get the 'shroom burger in a bowl, pretty much for the truffle aoili). Our Monday evenings at Sycamore and the occasional rooftop cocktail at Fahrenheit when we had something to celebrate. Oddly enough we went there after I got my BRCA2 gene mutation results, because I was in tears all afternoon and somehow we found a way to clink our glasses and happily wish for a long future together, with a little surgery thrown in eventually.
I want to remember all of it: the apartment in South End and long walks down the Rail Trail with Rob and Ender; that time Rob, Corri, Siobhan, Evan, and Alfie the cockapoo all piled into an Uber and went to Triple C Brewing Co. for beers before walking to Mac's Speed Shop for hush puppies and BBQ on a really hot summer night. How my mom always seemed to visit on rainy weekends and we'd sit on the patio in the morning with hot cups of coffee. The drive from Charlotte to Roanoke, and how the green mountains seemed to pop up out of nowhere the minute you crossed the border into Virginia.
And the way it felt coming home, with the Queen City skyline rising up slowly in the distance as we barreled down 77.
Charlotte was a quiet home where we were able to thrive. My blog grew and I thrashed my way out of what had been some pretty rigid comfort zones. I lived my most tumultuous two years here, but all of the trauma happened elsewhere. My parents' separation; my mom's breast cancer, surgery, and recovery--all of that took place hours away, so I would go and be there and do my best but then I would return to North Carolina--tired and sore and full of feelings that sometimes didn't even make sense--and I could rest in the quiet safety of Rob's arms.
I'm going to miss it here.
But I know I'll be able to access all of it on a chilly, Bay Area morning that I can't even imagine yet. The way we felt, the things we ate, the friends we made. Like every other place we've called home, we'll take as much of it as we can with us when we go.