With all the usual hassles of moving, from building a new house on the family farm to selling the old house on the other side of the state, I had little time to think about how strange it is to be back in Rome, GA.
I lived in Rome between 1978 and 1980 while teaching journalism courses at Berry College. I met my wife in Rome, and when we left in 1980 to seek our fortune in Atlanta 86 miles to the south, we thought the Rome phase of our lives was over.
We came back to the area to visit my wife’s family as well as friends we met at Berry College. The town was slowly changing–a revitalized downtown, new malls, new streets, and more people.
So, now we’re back after living in Atlanta suburbs farther and farther out from the city itself. We ended up in a small town of less than 10,000 people 50+ miles northeast of Atlanta for eleven years before moving here.
We saw the move as economically beneficial as well as forward looking. The farm is a much better environment than our subdivision of look-alike houses ruled by a homeowners association.
Nonetheless, the move also feels sort of like going home, or maybe going back in time, or maybe as tourists visiting a place where all the people we once knew have moved on. The farm has stayed more or less the same during all these years, though sad to say, both of my wife’s parents have passed away.
The city is both alien and familiar. This will take some getting used to. So will the traffic–not out where we live–when we drive into town to bury groceries, get stuff from Home Depot, or buy gardening supplies from the nursery.
Berry College has grown since I worked there, adding new buildings and new programs. I get lost driving around the campus. None of the faculty, staff and students whom I once knew are there any more. The faculty house I lived in on campus is gone, destroyed by a fallen tree several years ago during a tornado. I feel like a ghost from another century (literally and figuratively) whenever I go there.
I think we’re getting settled in to the new house. We’ve repaired one of the falling-down out-buildings, put in new trees and shrubs, set up two, raised-bed gardens–even the cats are used to the new house.
I’m not yet settled in to Rome, though. It’s a pretty nice town, but I keep seeing it as it was and wondering just what kind of destiny brought me back to a place I once said goodbye to.
If only I could write a short story or novel about all this, I might figure it out.