Last year, my parents and I went on a road trip to Mableton, GA, where we’d lived during my formative years—age seven to twelve—and still have family there. I’d agreed to speak at a writers conference and arranged to visit with family and friends during our stay.
On our ten hour drive—we made frequent stops at Krystals. Arkansas doesn't have them, so we loaded up while we could. If you've never had one of their burgers, I'm told they're similar to White Castles. Anyway in between Krystals, I learned some things.
I knew my parents were both born and raised near the rural Arkansas town where we live now. I knew they moved to Michigan when I was a year old, then we’d trekked to Indiana, a suburb of Chicago, and finally Mableton. My aunt and uncle made the trek also and still live there with both of my cousins in the area also. But I’d never thought to ask why we made all those moves.
With time to kill, I asked. Turns out we followed the pipeline to Michigan, then Indiana, then Illinois. The pipeline dried up when I was seven, but there was a housing boom in Atlanta. What really fascinated me was that we never had anywhere to land during any of those moves. With each trek, my dad found a job and a place to live once we got where we were going. My parents moved on faith. With a baby—toddler—child in tow.
When we first moved to Georgia, Daddy and my uncle found jobs in carpentry in Atlanta. My aunt and uncle found a house pretty quickly in Mableton. We found a huge house that had been cut up into apartments. For about a month, we lived in the apartment house and on the weekends, we drove around looking for a house. Without knowing a soul or much about the areas we visited. On one of our weekend jaunts, they found a rent house five minutes away from my aunt and uncle.
We moved in. There were lots of kids in the neighborhood close to my age and my school was at the end of our block. It was a walk to school, stay at home mom, jump rope and ride bikes in the street kind of neighborhood. An idyllic place to grow up with woods on two corners. I don’t even know who owned the woods, but Daddy built us a fort in them and all the kids spent hours there every day.
When I was nine, my grandfather died. My parents had always planned to move home to rural Arkansas. Grandpa’s death set the plan in motion as my parents faced the fact that their parents wouldn’t be around forever. We made the move home the summer I turned twelve. My aunt, uncle, and cousins were supposed to follow. But my oldest cousin got married and they ended up staying in Georgia.
At first, I thought my life was over. My cousins visited every summer, but they weren’t here. Twelve is an awkward age anyway and especially as the new girl. I didn’t feel like I fit in. I’d always lived in a neighborhood and close to a city. Here, the houses were spread out with a quarter of a mile in between and a small city ten miles away. The trek to Little Rock is over an hour. My plan was to graduate and move back to Georgia. Until I met my future husband when I was fourteen.
Over the years, rural Arkansas has grown on me. The houses are closer together now, but there are still lots of woods and space in between. My husband pastors our church in the city ten miles away. Now with a population of seven thousand, it would be way too big for me to live in and I sure don’t want to reside anywhere near Little Rock traffic.
During our stay in Georgia last summer, we visited with our former neighbors and friends. Only one man still lives in the old neighborhood and a lot of my friends’ parents have passed away. My old idyllic neighborhood isn’t the same. The woods are gone. The street has too much traffic for playing in the streets. Our old house is run down. It was a too short and bittersweet visit.
This picture was at the Varsity, another restaurant we miss since moving. Awesome slaw dogs, which is a hot dog with chili and cole slaw. They don't have these in Arkansas either. But we manage to get by. We get a chili dog from Sonic and then drive through Kentucky Fried Chicken for cole slaw. My Georgia friends thought that was really funny. That's my cousin back row left and my parents on the right. Mama's the one with her eyes closed, a family trait. It's usually me--I'm in the middle wearing lavendar. The other three are friends from the old neighborhood.
In hindsight, I’m thankful for the moves we made. For parents who stepped out on faith and trusted God to find that idyllic neighborhood and lifelong friends for us. I’m thankful for the brushes with city life and our final move to the country that made me who I am. For the Texas born husband He had waiting for me in rural Arkansas and the life we’ve built here. I’m thankful our fourteen year old son loves country life, even though he thinks I’m too city because I don’t like getting dirty.
So what about you? Are you city or country? Do you like to get dirty? Ever had a slaw dog?
The Cowboy Next Door
A charming cowboy moving in next door shouldn't be bad news. But veterinarian Ally Curtis knows Cody Warren—she'd never forget the boy who left her when she needed him most. Cody is doing everything he can to show his beautiful neighbor he's not the wild bull rider he once was, from helping her find homes for her beloved strays, to protecting her when her business is threatened. But Cody has a secret that keeps him from fully reaching out. Yet as they continue to work together to promote her shelter, he can't keep himself from hoping that Ally might have a home for him…in her heart.