Atlanta? I thought you said Atlantis. We were moving to the other side of the country and I barely knew about the one I am living in now. They could’ve been at the bottom of the ocean; all that I really knew of Southern states were stereotypes.
Calling our kitchen small may have motivated my Mom to have us move. I broke down crying and wondered if it had all been because of me. It must have been the last straw for what was already a work in the making. But I was excited to move and torn to leave my friends.
My dad had been leaving to look at jobs elsewhere for quite some time. I don’t know how I hadn’t noticed it, because he had been travelling across the country to visit colleges for months. He’d hear about their teaching positions and get accepted or turned away. It had come down to choosing between Georgia and Rochester.
I was from Los Banos, California. A town where we knew everyone and everyone knew us. There were pictures of Merced College’s professors at graduation with my dad.
We’d discover that our best friend is the cousin of our next door neighbor- and find that friend’s siblings are the same age as us. I didn’t know then to focus on the new people we’d meet, or the character we’d develop as a part of the move.
Georgia was on the other end of the world, in the corner of a map! It was distant anyway, and our new house didn’t feel like a home to me. At the time I had chosen to see it as a big adjustment. I had a lot of misconceptions about the South, and I looked down on it as a whole. It was difficult to shake the feeling that it sat in the corner for a reason.
A move would mean telling friends and family that we’d be going, and no event in my life would prove to be so transformative. It seemed like a clean cut between childhood and my budding adolescence. What was this foreign land? What could I call my place of boyhood but home? Any wall that I could form between my home and Georgia I did, and soon after, things grew sour.
My first year there went smoothly; it was an adventure of sorts, and most everything about my new elementary school felt fresh and invigorating.
Though the years that followed would be colored with a sense of angst, internal struggle, and bitterness, the adventure would come full circle to make me a stronger version of myself. Where the easy road of staying home might have eased my heart, a new adventure had grown in my spirit.
Our first night was spent huddling in sleeping bags around the fireplace of our rental house, curled up on the floor. We hadn’t moved in our stuff. The sights, the smells-! You know what I’m talking about; as mad as I was about moving, I couldn’t wait to see what my new school would bring.
It may all be America, but this was America’s other side. This was a place of mystery unlike anywhere when my small world had felt so big.
If my family were waiting for postcards, we’d need to send them from the airport we arrived at, because we’d be heading almost an hour north. These suburbs weren’t sidewalks surrounded by farmland, but residence on residence, and trees as far as the eye could see. I had never seen so many trees, where were the dry shrubs, and the beaches? The town I grew up in was flat, simple, home-y. This was…hilly, complex, and exciting.
Long walks home from school were replaced with humid summers spent at the neighborhood pool, and before I know it my economic privilege had presented itself in its own fashion. Within a couple years we’d be moving to a new house more permanently, and a new set of neighbors would mean a new bus route, and new kids on it.
One day at recess had turned into an announcement when I told my friends that I’d be moving to Georgia. A lot of kids moved here and there in elementary school, and we were just working our way towards the end of it. They weren’t terribly pleased or upset, more like curious and surprised.
We ran onto the ramp of one of our trailer-classrooms when we played, and so I went ahead and told my friends that I’d be going. My third grade teacher announced my move to the whole class, and left a heartfelt goodbye in my yearbook. Recess was more than an hour of our day where I came from. It had been recess when I told the classmates I played with, and recess felt over once I had left.