Monday, February 28, 2011

Settling Down in My Home Town

These days it seems like the everyone is moving across country (or to another country entirely) from where they grew up. I can understand the desire to go someplace where no one knows you and you can get a fresh start. And sometimes, it’s just the best decision based on where the availabilities in your field can be found. However, I feel there are some definite advantages to growing older in the same town where you grew up.

I was born in Atlanta and grew up deep in the heart of Midtown. Growing up I was walking distance from my middle and high schools, from a movie theatre, a (small) grocery store, numerous restaurants, a couple of laundry mats, a hair salon we never used, the biggest park in the city and a neighborhood convenience store that probably had a name, but was always just called Richard’s Store. My husband grew up in a nearby suburb, and taught me that sometimes it’s okay to go someplace for an evening that’s more than ten minutes away.

I love Atlanta and, despite her mass transit problems, I have no desire to leave her. Other cities just don’t have enough trees, for one thing. But more than that, I know this town and she knows me.

I have never had to look for a mechanic. It seems like a taxing process. I have friends who have had their cars totaled by incompetent mechanics, and heard tons of horror stories of people being tricked and defrauded by those who are less than scrupulous. This has never been an issue for me. When I was little my parents used Bob Todd as their mechanic. When he retired, he passed the business, and their custom, on to his son, John. One of my first memories of being back in Atlanta after graduating college was taking my car in to get my blinker repaired. It was just a matter of replacing the casing and it only took a minute. When Mr. Todd (as I still call him much to his great annoyance) was done, I asked him how much it cost. He looked at me like I was crazy and told me “I’m not gonna charge Robert’s daughter for that.” It felt really good to be home.

Of course, living in the town you grew up in isn’t always discounts and name dropping. Sometimes it’s realizing the consequences of your favorite neighborhood bar also being your father’s favorite. There I am, sitting at a table full of my friends, my Guinness has just arrived and I am reaching to get a cigarette to accompany it when my father spots us and joins our table. Now, I am not a smoker. I just feel that beer, specifically Guinness, tastes better with tobacco. But after the years I spent giving my father grief about his cigarette addiction, the times I watched him try to quit, and the general “don’t ever start smoking or it will haunt your life for all time” sentiment in my house growing up, there is no way I can smoke in front of my dad - even as he bums a cigarette off my roommate and starts puffing away. Now, my dad is generally accepted amongst my friends to be pretty awesome, so there is no lack of engagement to drive him from the table. Meanwhile, my beer is growing warm and I really wish he’d go find his friends so that I can indulge my vices with out parental supervision.

Still, if my dad randomly showing up to curb my bad habits is the worst of my complaints, then life in my home town is treating me pretty well. And truly, his proximity is far more of a blessing than a burden. My husband and I only have one car between us, and MARTA doesn’t run to his office (did I mention that Atlanta’s mass transit sucks). Tomorrow I have an invited dress rehearsal for a show I’m doing costume design for at 8:30 in the morning in another part of town with out MARTA access in the opposite direction of my husband’s office. This would be an impossible situation if it weren’t for my dad who is graciously willing to pick me up at 7:45 and drop me off at the show. Because he loves me and is, as is generally accepted, awesome.

And this is with out even getting into the perks of having the in-laws nearby. Whether it’s help moving, help mounting shelves, or help getting around town, it is definitely nice to have the built in support structure of family. And when looking for reliable businesses, it’s a lot easier to spot them if you’ve been using them for over a decade, and possibly went to school with the owner’s children. I can understand the appeal of a fresh slate, but as for me? I really like being home.

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