Coming Home after Life in the Big Apple



BY:  KAREN COOPER

As a child filled with wanderlust and for as long as I can remember wanting anything, I wanted to live in New York City. The BIG Apple, the place where anything is possible in a city that never sleeps! It beckons you at every turn…on TV, in the movies…you read about it in magazines and books. To a young, precocious girl in North Carolina, it seemed like an impossible dream…but fate said, “Girl…keep dreaming BIG”!

By the age of 17, I found myself in college in Manhattan, living a life I could hardly believe was mine. I pursued my college degree, then a few different careers and ended up living in New York City for 12 amazing, lively years. The tragedy of 9/11/2001 was what brought me back home.

Moving back South brought me back into the bosom of my family, the nostalgia of my past. It was a different kind of dream come true. Something I ached for inside, but didn’t realize it until I came back. In the South, I found that I could slow down and catch my breath, I could think about buying a house and I could have babies. Those were all things that seemed impossible living in such a fast-paced, expensive place like New York, and they were all things I was really craving in my life at the time. But there were the other things too, the more subtle “welcome homes” that twist around a cold Northern transplanted heart like a vine of Kudzu on a hot summer day and don’t let go. Things like…

– Family telling you to come hug their neck or give them sugar;

– One of your 12 great aunts telling you not to be bashful about going back for seconds;

– The smell of thunderstorms…they smell different here;

– Knowing when you order tea, it will be cold and sweet;

– Allowing the Y’alls to wash over you and remind you, you’re among your people;

– Deviled Eggs!

– Listening to the stillness and only hearing the crickets sing;

– Seeing the stars;

– Catching a whiff of honeysuckle in the air;

– Your plate arriving at breakfast with the biscuit completely drenched in sausage gravy and a heaping side of grits;

Heaven on earth!

To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven.    ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1

I never did like things too fancy. I live now in a sensible three-bedroom ranch house with a husband, two kids, and a dog, where once it was just me…five flights up…in ONE pretty small room of my own…in New York City. I don’t regret a thing! I loved where I lived then, and I sure do love where I live now…especially living in Winston-Salem! It’s my favorite of all the North Carolina cities…and I’ve tried all the big ones!

Bless my heart, am I glad I came home! I want my children to know their roots, to know their grandparents, the people and places they come from and their traditions. My father always told me this would matter to me one day…that this history, this place of ours would be important to me, and now I can say he is absolutely right. It took me a while to understand.

My Northern friends never quite understood how Mama and Daddy, sweet tea, biscuits, and babies could compete with life in the Big Apple, but they weren’t from around here, and I could never really explain it…no matter how far you try to run away, even if you’re sure it’s for good this time…the South always has a way of calling you home.

 


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