Anyone who knows us knows that my husband, Paul, and I love NC. We love the coast, we love the Universities, we love the natural beauty, the culture, the history, and the spirit of this Old North State. But most of all we love the mountains. We grew up there. Our respective childhood lives unfolded in the embrace of that blanket of bruise-colored ridges. The scent of Galax and Rhododendron and dank woods and fresh mountain stream fills us with peace and longing. Peace because it is the fragrance of home for us. Longing because we no longer live there and breathe that scent on a regular basis.
From our first date in December 1993 (shortly after we both moved to the Triangle area), we have talked about returning, moving back to the place that feels most like home to us, back to the place that is the source of peace and comfort for us. Over the years, there have been times when the longing has grown sharp and times when it was little more than a wistful dream of "someday." No matter how intense its hue, the dream is always there.
But life happens. Most of the time it happens to us, around us, in spite of us. Not always in bad ways--in fact we have a pretty good life. We live in a nice brick house in a desirable, though modest, neighborhood with mature trees and winding streets just minutes from all we could ever wish for--shopping, conveniences, entertainment, restaurants, quality (albeit expensive) child care. We have good jobs, advanced degrees, friends. We love our life. We love eating out at restaurants several days a week, having someone bring us bottomless glasses of cold soda, endless baskets of chips and salsa, good food. We love being able to drop by any number of grocery stores conveniently located near our home--from health foods stores to natural foods to discount groceries to warehouse stores to your everyday Kroger. We love our "date nights" to our local supersize bookstore, plopping ourselves into the comfy chairs with our frosty coffee milkshake-like drinks. We love having the big home improvement stores so close that we can make six trips in one day when we're painting our living room or preparing the baby's nursery. We love knowing that there are cultural events, major sports events, outdoor activities, gyms, art museums, universities, even lakes all nearby for us. And we have recently grown to love having high quality medical care available.
Even so, something is missing. Our life is great. Our life is wonderful. But it's not our dream. We still go to our childhood homes and breathe deeply, sleep more soundly with our windows open to the mountain air, grow nostalgic over family gatherings, wish that our daughter could experience some of the same simple pleasures we had growing up. We still want to go home.
There's more to it than that, even. Something has to be the impetus to get us out of our comfortable lives and move us toward living our dream now. The past couple of years have given us that something...maybe.
When did it all begin? I'm not sure I can easily map a genesis. As I've said, the longing has been there since we both left home. But I guess the series of events that have grown into this latest sharpening of our desire began when I became pregnant with Owen. Maybe it was before that for Paul--maybe it begins with his unhappiness in his career path, certain job situations in particular.
While I was in school and Paul was working for good money and his stock options were worth something, we were okay. Let me graduate, we said, get my career started, build our nest egg. Five years, we said, then we would revisit it, look at our finances, see if we could do it. We were comfortable with that. Five years. Okay.
Then we decided to have a baby. We tried for months. Paul took a job traveling, something that he had always wanted to try. I finished school and began looking for a job. Finally, I became pregnant and found a job. It was great job--important, helping people, professional. Life was good. Life was great. Sure, Paul was gone a lot. Sure, I was on 24-hour call half of the month, in the office the other half. He spent most of his time in airports. I spent most of my time in hospitals. Even so, our careers were great. We loved our work. But it wasn't very conducive to family life.
I was new to my career, and wanted to get it off the ground, so Paul started looking for a change--for a job where he would not have to travel, where he could be home to care for the baby when I was out on call. He applied a few places, had some interviews that were promising. And on a lark, he applied for a job that was a complete change. A University teaching position in Western North Carolina. Back home. Teaching. The idea of it thrilled and frightened him. He had no intention of going through with it. After all, he had never taught before. He would be required to seek a doctoral degree and that was daunting to him. We were about to have a baby. We had a great life already. He could make better money here. And besides, they wouldn't be seriously interested in him anyway, would they?
Well, yes, they would. He was called for an interview. It made no sense to pursue this job right now. But he had to see if he could get it--he had to try. He began to prepare for the interview, which involved a guest lecture to a group of students. He began to wonder if he could really do this, if we could really do this.
Then Owen decided she was ready to come into the world-- six weeks early. And she changed our world in ways we could never have predicted...
(To be continued)