From Queens to the Queen City
One vivid memory keeps popping up for me. It was about 10 years ago, and I arrived at North Pacolet Church in Pacolet, SC. My uncle had passed away, and I had driven in from Charlotte for the funeral.
Having arrived early and needing to stretch my legs, I wandered around the cemetery and looked at the grave stones. There were a few others milling around. Soon a woman introduced herself and after hearing my relation to the deceased, took me to a few of my distant relatives' resting places and told me the history. I believe it was my great-great-grandfather who was the preacher that had founded this little church. My mom’s family is from several little towns in the area, and I was probably related in some shape or form to half the people in the cemetery.
It struck me that there were entire generations that stayed in the vicinity their whole lives and their kids’ and grandkids’ whole lives. At first I assumed that they just didn’t have enough drive to get out, to move on. Looking at it now, I think it might be simply a love of place.
Love of place is a fairly rare concept these days. It used to be mostly that “military brats” were the only ones who moved frequently, but now it’s pretty common to see families who move as the wind blows (or the job changes). Because it’s so easy to stay in touch with FaceTime, emails, texts, and plane rides, we have an unprecedented freedom to move around and live in vastly different parts of the country. While this is liberating, I have to wonder if maybe it's leaving us a little untethered.
Many animals do something called homing. They return to their birthplace to reproduce. They find their way home. My father’s side of the family lives in Sparta, NC, a small town in the mountains, near Galax, VA. Homing is a real thing for the people of Sparta; it’s like it’s written in their DNA. Since I don’t have the mountains in my genetic makeup, I’ve never really felt like I fit in there, even with family.
I was raised in Winston-Salem, NC, and although I’m still nostalgic about it, I don’t have a true love for it anymore. My heart is firmly planted in Charlotte, NC, the Queen City. I love the energy, the beauty, the flowers, the giant trees that line the boulevards; the intersection where all roads in every direction are labeled Queens; the quirky, artsy neighborhoods like NoDa and Plaza Midwood; the old money areas like Myers Park, and Dilworth; the young upstarts like Ballantyne and Waverly.
This past week Paul and I flew into NYC. We drove out of Queens, on our way to Long Island. We were eventually in Connecticut and Massachusetts as well. I loved every minute. We saw sights, ate new foods, visited historical sites, saw gorgeous botanical gardens, and met wonderful people all along the way. It was a super trip. I couldn’t have asked for a better time.
But it wasn’t until the wheels touched down in Charlotte that I could truly breathe again though. It may only be 653 miles from Queens, NY, to the Queen City, but in terms of comfort and love of place, it might as well be in another galaxy.