How Do You Have Such Love for a Place You Can’t Stay?

A throwback – sharing a post from my journal….
This is probably the best NY’s Eve and Day that I’ve had in a very long time. I love having no agenda other than to enjoy where I am and the people around me. When I left home on December 14th, I had no idea where I’d be today, but it’s so wonderful to be with people who understand me on such a primal level. They get me in a way that I don’t believe anybody else can because they know more of my roots than anybody does. This said, both my blood and chosen families add a layer of comfort and emotional safety to my life that empowers me and triggers a tremendous sense of gratitude.
Part of what I’ve loved so much on this journey (I took a month-long road trip), especially since I unexpectedly wound up spending so much time in the south, is that I’ve met so many people who understand my roots and have ingratiated me in ways that I miss terribly. From the woman who didn’t know me from a can of paint, but paid for me to have an extra night in a hotel so that I could explore to the two brothers in Mound Bayou who turned into uncles when they learned that a woman young enough to be their daughter was driving around the backwoods by herself to the last minute podcast guests who responded to my requests with, “I’d be glad to” rather than “How many followers do you have?”
I love southern people and country Black folks, in particular. I love knowing when I knock on the doors of the many homes that I will visit this week WITHOUT CALLING FIRST that I’ll be greeted with everything from “Hey girl” to “Come on in here and eat with us” to “Lord, child, ain seen you since such and such died. You gone stay up north?” For those who I do call first, they will offer to come see me at my cousin’s house, including asking me if I want to ride with them for the day just so that we can spend time together. As we speak, Mr. Bop is preparing six bottles of homemade muscadine wine for me to bring a little bit of Georgia back (it’s really good, too). And I feel my obligation to be a girl from the neighborhood……………I just learned that one of my high school friends’ mother died two weeks ago. I’ll go visit him just to let him know that, “I’m sorry your mama died.”
I will drive down the short dirt road to my great grandparents former home and remember the days of picking mulberries, pecans, pears and apples from their yard and “walking through the path” to beg Ms. Sue for plums off her tree and another slice of pound cake (she made the best pound cake). I’ll also feel a little sad because the elders of my childhood are all but gone and many of their homes sit empty. I will drive by the family cemetery and toot my horn at the section that largely belongs to my ppl. Finally, I will go by Ms. Annie Ree’s house before I leave town because our tradition is that she will make me a bologna sandwich before I get on the road (when I was a kid, I thought she made the best bologna sandwiches, so I went to her house EVERY DAY after school to get one)!
I will miss these people and this life, but I will return to my own life. With every northbound mile on 95, I will think about how much I love it here (Atlanta), but find it so difficult to fathom returning here to stay. I feel like I’ve been gone so long that I don’t know how to make a life that is truly my own here. If I’d stayed here, I wouldn’t road trip alone, I definitely wouldn’t hike, and I’d probably have a husband and an ugly kid or two. I’d attend church weekly (perhaps twice a week), be either an usher or in the choir, and on the repast committee (by default, ALL women are on the repast committee). I’d have a job where I’d be forced to codeswitch all day, and I’d find it hard to set boundaries with my family.
Perhaps this is the essence of what bittersweet means. I love them. I love this life, and I love my own. I miss them and all of this, but after experiencing the liberation of choosing me, I know I will choose me each and every time. I’d rather feel the pain of missing them than taste the bitterness of resenting what I’d feel pressured to be if I lived with them and this every day. The reasons for which I left and return are constant.

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