I recently returned HOME to Savannah from a two week vacation in New England. Massachusetts was the place I called home for nineteen years. My oldest son was 3 1/2 and my youngest son was 8 months old when my family moved there. I did not want to move to Massachusetts then but my very wise southern granny told me that I needed to “bloom where I was planted”. I tried really hard to do that. We bought a house in a beautiful little New England town called Groton. Groton was incorporated in 1655 with historic buildings and homes that are still standing nearly 400 years later. My stay in Groton was short when measured against the 359 year history of the town but the life I lived there is lasting and memorable.
It felt very strange to be back in this place that I had called home for nearly twenty years. My kids went to school and grew up in Groton. I have lifelong friends there. I worked there. I went to church there. It is a beautiful and almost utopian place to live. A person can find happiness there.
I could not wait for this trip and the chance to visit all my good friends and favorite stomping grounds. I drove the streets mindlessly on autopilot. I knew where I was going. I drove by my old house. I visited the library. I ate at Filho’s and bought apple cinnamon scones at the Bagel Shop. I browsed the books at “Second Hand Prose” a wonderful bookstore owned by friend Katharyn. I saw my dear friends and that was wonderful. I realized how very much I missed them. It felt strange as if I were hovering in another realm of existence between two places. I belonged there but I didn’t belong there. I lived there but I didn’t live there anymore.
This feeling of deja vu and the involuntary memories that came with it were disturbing. My brain was flooded with both good and bad memories. At any given point in time I could mentally go back to one situation or another and relive it all over again. It felt so REAL even though I knew it had happened in the past. I was sitting at my friends kitchen table drinking tea again. I was taking care of my kids again. I was at the Mom’s group at church again. I was with my book group again. I was going to work at the library again. I was picking one of the boys up from an afternoon activity at school again. Reliving the good memories made me feel sad for the past. I wanted to do it all over again. I wanted to be in this place again.
Reliving the bad memories made me feel sadder. My marriage fell apart there. The tragedy of 9/11 hit very close to home there. I moved out on my own there. I got a divorce there. My life and the lives of my sons changed there. I did not want to live through these events all over again. I did not want to be in this place again.
This is the farmhouse on Gibbet Hill where I lived. It was my sanctuary and retreat when I moved out on my own. I found peace here.
I raised and was the best mom to my kids there. I found my voice there. I went back to school there. I found a career that I love there. I started over there. I found love there. I found happiness again there. I left there.
Throughout this intense memory flood I could not help but ask myself “what if I had stayed”? What if I had stayed? My everyday life might still be the same. Or not. My kids lives might be the same. Or not. I had a great job and I might still be there. Or not. I might be somewhere else New England. Or not. I might have avoided some of the crappy stuff that happened. Or not. It might stop snowing in the winter. Or not. I could see my friends any time I wanted. Or not. What if I had stayed? What would my life look like now? Would it have been different? Maybe. Maybe not.
That’s the interesting thing about memories. The good ones make you want to go back in time to the place where your happy memories live. The sad ones remind you of the reasons you needed to move on. I guess that can be a good thing too.
I didn’t stay. I left my home, my friends, my job, and the familiar places to try something new. I made the conscious choice to make a lifestyle change and go in a different direction. It doesn’t change my past but it has enhanced the memories that I now have. Whether I’m here or there I still don’t know what my future will be.
If I had stayed I never would have met the lifelong friends I found in North Carolina and Savannah. I can’t imagine my life without these friends. I wouldn’t trade the experiences I’ve had that make me a better person. Even the bad ones. I wouldn’t trade the time I’ve had with my family. I wouldn’t trade the opportunities to discover new places. I wouldn’t trade the adventures.
What I learned from this trip is that reliving your past blocks you from making new memories in real time! From this trip, I will remember the treasured meals and conversations I had with so many of my dear, dear friends. I will remember reading and relaxing at the lake with my sweet husband and mother in law. I will remember the beautiful sun and that crisp, clear, blue sky that is prevalent this time of year in New England. I will remember the visits to the places that I love. I can go back to visit anytime I want.
Arriving back in Savannah I felt an overwhelming “I’m so happy to be home”. Walking through the squares “I’m so happy to be home”. Being back in my house “I’m so happy to be home”.
My everyday life in REAL time is where I like to be. Savannah is my home now and this is my life. I love it! I think I’ll stay!
Troup Square, Savannah