We left North Carolina 15 years ago today in a U-Haul.
I was 14 years and 8 months old and should’ve been doing my 9th grade summer reading on the way down, but I couldn’t stop thinking about everything I was leaving behind.
I hated moving.
I typically love disgusting southern summer heat, but it was unacceptable that day. The truck rattled on the highway and nothing on the radio sounded right. We got Chick-fil-A somewhere just before the state line and it didn’t even taste good.
Chick-fil-A always tastes good.
It’s the first time in my life I don’t remember being excited to see the Gaffney peach.
We used to come down to Liberty, SC fairly often. We’d visit my grandparents farm, swim in their pool, fish in their pond, spend time with my sisters and nephews.
It was a fine, no, great place to visit.
But it was no place to move a teenager who was used to the comfort of the suburbs in a progressive southern city, of that I was sure.
My opinion of this place changed. I became comfortable over time. High school in rural South Carolina was far better than I expected it to be, and most likely a better experience than I would’ve had in a huge suburban Wake County high school. I made friends I will never lose.
I stuck around South Carolina for college. Though that decision was largely influenced by in-state scholarship money, I’m glad I made it.
I left right after school to try a new place, because I thought I needed to get away. It only took me 19 months to hurry back from Mississippi.
I eventually fell from feeling stuck in South Carolina, to being in love with it. My sisters are here. My parents are here. A huge part of our family history is here. I fell in love with South Carolina.
And I fell in love in South Carolina.
I met a guy from New Hampshire who’d come down for a job and through the course of all of the things dating, falling in love and getting married can bring, I sort of accidentally roped him into sticking around the Palmetto State.
So we’re settling in this place I never wanted to move to, but it’s not settling in the sense that I’d rather be elsewhere.
We love our city. This city is ours and that’s important to us. We’ve watched it grow and change in the past five years and will continue to do so long into the future.
But I still miss North Carolina.
I still think of North Carolina as my home.
Not in a sad, pathetic way, or at least that’s what I tell myself, but in the way that a person loves the place that shaped them.
North Carolina is where I was made. It’s where I learned to walk, run, swim and ride a bike. It’s where I made my first friends and some of my very best friends. It’s where most of my team allegiances lie and where my mom’s whole side of the family hails from. We didn’t travel a lot when I was young, instead we spent most of our time off and many weekends visiting my grandparents’ home near the NC Coast.
It’s also the only place I grew up with my brothers. They were both out of high school when we moved. A transition to being the only child left at home might feel natural for any other youngest child, for me, it coincided with a life change that amplified an altered family dynamic.
15 years ago today my mom, dad and I moved into the first house I ever lived in that wasn’t ours from its beginning. It was a rental house, actually a former parsonage for my grandparents’ Methodist church which sat just behind the backyard. The living room had green carpet and the kitchen had the oldest appliances and cabinets I’d ever seen.
I’m sure someone loved the home at one point, but it wasn’t me.
We lived in that house for two years while my parents built a big white home on a hill outside of town. Someone bought the parsonage after we left and renovated every inch.
I don’t disconnect well. It took me years to figure it out, but it’s probably my biggest weakness. I don’t easily grasp the idea of losing friends to time, distance or even conflict. I’m still, even as we go through the process of buying our first home here in Greenville, appalled at the idea that people live in a structure for years, build memories there and then just leave, destined to only ever see it again from the outside as they slow roll down the street wondering how the new residents have redecorated.
That was the only home I’ve never cared about since we left.
On the rare occasions when I drive by that house, all I can think of is grumpy 14-year-old me on a hot, sticky July day, insisting on putting two unopened packets of Chick-fil-A’s Polynesian sauce in the ugly old fridge as soon I arrived – you know, in case I needed them in my uncertain future in South Carolina.