The boys and I went to South Carolina over the weekend to visit my cousin, Paul, and his family. The drive was long and the visit was short, but it was worth it since we probably won’t see them for a long time. My boys played famously with their boys, which is always a sweet thing to see. I took some pictures but considering I came home SICK, I won’t be uploading and editing for a while. That’s right – I drove home with a low-grade fever that spiked last night. I’m not well and I’m praying Jackson goes with the flow today. I don’t plan on moving very much. Perhaps he can reheat his own mac ‘n cheese for lunch.
I love Chattanooga this time of year, when chilly mornings make coffee taste better and I can leave my windows open nearly all day. All I want to do is bake, simmer soups on the stove, and eat abnormal amounts of candy corn after the boys to go bed. The leaves will be changing soon, which means haystacks, multi-colored mums, and pumpkin displays outside every store and neighborhood development. It means the Scenic City will be surrounded by mountains splattered with vibrant color.
I’m especially aware of the season as it will be our last autumn living in Tennessee.
In three months I will bid farewell to this city and begin a new life with my family in Texas. As the day approaches when we’ll hug our friends and family goodbye sobbing in the driveway, I am encouraged to make the most of our remaining time.
After dropping Jeremy off at school last Friday morning, I took Jackson to my father-in-law so I could go for a run outside. Initially I was headed for the Riverpark where I have spent the last two years training for races along the paved riverside trail. I have run from one end to the other, and then back a little, memorizing every mile marker and water fountain, stretching and cooling down along the river‘s edge.
However, as I drove over the dam towards Hixson I was reminded of Greenway Farms, a conservancy area off Hamill Road where I used to run as a teenager. I’d run the trails after school or spend weekend afternoons sitting at the top of the quarry with Chuck, my boyfriend-turned-husband of nearly eight years. I’d go there on weekends home from college and it was always the first place I’d think of when I needed time alone. After moving to the city in 1993, it was at the Greenway that I finally embraced Chattanooga as my home.
By the time I dropped off Jackson, my mind was made up. I threw mileage and race training to the wind and headed to the Greenway.
Even with the paved parking lot and cleared undergrowth, the Greenway was just as I remembered. It was still peacefully quiet, sprinkled with sounds of quickened footsteps from other patrons and panting dogs at their side. It was if I time traveled, instantly transported to when I was 17, Discman in hand and Counting Crows streaming in my ear. I might have brought my dog, or perhaps my journal, or I might have come to run off some steam. As I stood at the far end of the trail, a married 30 year old with two children, the weight of the world fell off my shoulders. For the next hour, I was free from all of it.
I began to jog along the trimmed grassy trail and remembered the last time I was here. It was at least seven years ago when you could see from one end of the field to the other. Now all the foliage has grown above my head, a subtle reminder of the fragility of time.
The view from atop the quarry’s cliff was also how I remembered, and I was quickly tempted to ignore the warning sign, scale the fence and lay on the rocks to soak it in. I kept running, but only because there were passersby. Had I been guaranteed a moment alone, I probably would’ve done it.
The hour crept by, and that was a good thing. I forgot what my body was doing and, instead, sifted through the rolodex of memories in my mind. It was in Chattanooga where I met my husband, where I had a job that I loved, and where I bought my first car as a working woman. It was here that we discovered our infertility, mourned the loss of what could be, and happily adopted our two boys, creating a little family just over the state line. It was here that I became a runner and gained the confidence to test my body beyond limits. It was in Chattanooga that we established lifelong friends, people that have loved not only us but also our children.
When my run was over I’d made a mental list of Things To Do Before We Move. The boys have never been on the Incline and it’s been over a decade since I’ve visited the Hunter Museum. There are a few restaurants I’ve yet to try and local boutiques where I’ve never shopped. You can never ride the carousel too many times or climb the tower at the Discovery Museum. We will spend our remaining time enjoying the city that has been a great home.
Now begins the long, tender goodbye.