Monday, November 2, 2020

Georgia on my Mind

This is my online writing home but I also have an analog home: I keep a hard copy journal and I have for years.

I find that during Quarantimes, time has gotten a little wiggly for me. I find myself thinking of things from the past more and more. I told some friends that I think it’s my brain’s way of filling the void left by lack of social activities. Brain says, “Well, if I can’t go out and talk to a bunch of other people, I’m going to console myself with all these people from forty years ago. So there!” 

Add to that a terrible sleeplessness due to thinking about the election and things get weird. 

The Magnificent Jake Tapper, on his daily CNN show, usually mentions one or two people at the end of his broadcast. People who have succumbed to Covid-19. It’s a sad but kind tribute. One day, he was talking about this guy and gave his town as Clarkesville, Georgia. My ears perked up immediately and it brought back a flood of memories. 

When I was still in high school, my parents bought a small place in the Georgia mountains—in Clarkesville. We had spent some time there because I had (and still have) relatives in north Georgia. It’s a beautiful area, and the house they bought was right on the edge of the Chattahoochee National Forest. I liked the area, too, but I didn’t want to spend my senior year in high school at a brand new school, one in the South. I would feel like a fish out of water. Mom and Dad agreed with that, so they hung onto the Indiana house and while they started working on the Georgia house (there was a lot of cleanup to do, and that’s a fascinating tale in its own right, but that’s a story for another day), my sister and her husband stayed with me in the Indiana house. 

When I graduated, we sold that house and I moved to Georgia with Mom and Dad, at least for the summer before college. I spent three summers there during college breaks and hearing a mention of Clarkesville (our address) brought all those memories back. 

I had a nice little corner bedroom. I didn’t like the air conditioning so I kept the two doors leading to my room closed and my two windows wide open to the hot and humid Georgia air. (My leather shoes and purses paid the price by giving their lives to mildew.) I had a high iron bed and loved to perch up there (I had to hop to get up onto it!) and read books, listen to records, and write in my journal, as well as letters to friends and family back home. 

As I thought back to that time, I could almost hear the loud buzzing of the cicadas, the rustling of the big rhododendron bush outside my window, and smell the scent of its blooms wafting through my room. I was 18-19 when I lived there and I was filled with all the uncertainties and longings of that age. I was trying to figure out my place in the world and trying to figure out this impending adulthood thing. 

But for the time being, I was a college girl from the North living in a rural mountain town in the South. As I told others when I was thinking back to that time, I feel like it was the last time when I didn’t have a care in the world. I had the usual anxieties of the time, like nuclear war, and the usual anxieties of a teenage girl just starting to understand the power of being a woman. But no bills, no job to go to, no homework...just enjoying the present and dipping my toe into adulthood.

It was a heady time and it gobsmacked me to feel all that like it was yesterday. 

The point is (and there is a point here, I promise!) that it prompted me to find all my old journals. I spent a manic half hour late last night hunting them down, but I found them! As I read entries from that time, I had to laugh at myself, but it was also...what would be the word? Poignant? Bittersweet? I wanted to tell the 18-year-old Beth, “Listen. You’re gonna be okay. You’ll never figure it all out, because no one ever does, but you’re just starting your journey. Be true to yourself, and you’ll make your way.” 

This started out as a completely different entry, one about my brief romance with my Georgia boy, one that never came to fruition but was intoxicating nonetheless. I realized the back story was a little too long and deserved its own entry. 

I’ll eventually read through all of these old journals and I’m sure it will be an emotional experience for me. I’ll share a few things on here but there will be plenty that I keep to myself. A gal’s gotta have some secrets, after all. 

But Dear Diary knows all.