It was the first time I’d seen painted lines on pavement in three years. The long stretch of road that led me off the mountain beckoned me to a life I once cherished. A mist hung in the air that morning, smudging the horizon, like the sweep of an eraser over pencil lines. The curves in the road ahead were just as uncertain as my future back in Atlanta.
They didn’t know I was coming home. By this point I was the one who went crazy and disappeared into the mountains. But just as quickly as I had decided to come, I knew when it was time to go home.
My explanation for leaving didn’t make much sense to anyone in my family. I was working at a prominent law firm with the potential to advance. I was single, but enjoyed the dating scene on a regular basis. I had a chic apartment in the center of the city.
But one morning, as I looked out at the crowds crossing the street and the cars in queue for the parking garage, a gear twisted in my mind and I had to get out. Something was missing in the city, something I knew I could find outside of the noisy streets and light polluted sky. Within 24 hours my bags were packed and I started to drive toward the mountains of West Virginia. I had a cousin who lived out that way, but I struggled to remember where, pushing back into the crevices of my mind to imagine the addresses on the old letters we wrote to each other as kids. I supposed she was my inspiration for coming. All her letters about country life never left my memories, even after twenty years.
It took some time before I finally found her. Knocking on the door of a single-wide trailer led me to Maurry, a grey-bearded old man with a thick mountain accent. I had to ask him to repeat himself several times before he finally said “Com’on,” and drove me to my cousin’s farm.
Luann’s southern charm and hospitality, passed down from her mama, had only grown stronger since she was a child. I exchanged my business suit for a pair of dirty-kneed jeans, helping my extended family run their farm and enjoying the solace of the hills.
I never much picked up an accent, well, maybe just a little, but they taught me things about living I could have never understood in the city. They taught me how to slow down and enjoy life at a relaxed pace. Though work on the farm was hard and back breaking, no one ever spent time worrying about things they knew the good Lord would take care of. They taught me that no matter what you are doing in life it has to be satisfying work, whether that meant working in the mines or answering phone calls all day. What was important is that you came home happy about how you had spent your day. Now that I was returning, I knew I had to share what I had learned, letting people know there is more than the life they think is enough.
It was difficult to leave, and I had no idea what to expect or how I would feel when the skyscrapers and traffic jams came into view. Would I tuck tail and run back to the mountains?
I took a deep breath when I saw my first traffic light. It clicked from red to green.