You know that one place (or maybe two) you've lived in that, from the moment you got there, just felt like home?
I've lived all over the Midwest, East Coast and Western Europe, and as luck would have it, that place, for me, is Charlottesville, Virginia. Every time I get back, I feel like I'm home. It's funny, too, because I spent the five most difficult years of my life there. Difficult because I was writing a dissertation, and, for me, just about every other challenge I've faced in life has been a thousand time easier than that gut-wrenching, sleep-depriving, paranoia-inducing academic obstacle course. Still, Virginia turned out to be the perfect place to do it.
My husband and I made really great friends there. Friends we still keep in touch with although we've been gone now for (gulp) ten years. And the air has just right smell to it. And the food, just the right taste.
So when I was invited to speak at the Virginia Festival of the book in C-ville this year, I was ecstatic. The kids were ecstatic. It was like a second Christmas in Spring.
Except for the trip out. It was...what is the right adjective here...insane? We missed our connecting flight in O'Hare due to weather (I'm not sure what kind of weather because it was in the 50s and raining, but that's what the airline was claiming was the cause of delays and the reason they didn't have to try very hard to get us out until, say, next Spring). Pandemonium ensued. It was two weekends ago, the first weekend of Spring Break in the Midwest, and everybody was trying to get somewhere. Let's just say that it was a minor miracle we were able to get anywhere near Virginia before I'd aged another year. I think the gods of aviation must have intervened because before my birthday dawned on Sunday, we were at my brother's in Chesapeake.
My kids were then subjected to the usual, learn American history firsthand routine. I took them the Yorktown, Jamestown, and colonial Williamsburg. It rained, but it didn't matter. We were too excited to be back in Virginia. Then it was off to Charlottesville (C-ville to townies and students) for a week of school visits. My kids spent the time with their godparents and old friends, one of whom took them hiking two days in a row.
When I asked my kids if they were having an okay time, what with my being away all day at schools, my ten year old looked at me and said, "Are you kidding? I would have come here without you!"
Needless to say, the week went by way too quickly, and it was suddenly Saturday morning and I was off to the Festival. Red letter day. Got to see old writing friends, talk on a panel with them about setting in kidlit, schmooze, meet lots of authors I'd never met before, and round the evening off with a dinner at a cozy tapas joint in town (where we all learned to never order the tuna tartar again, unless you're Thimbelina).
Sunday, I took the girls to our favorite hiking spot, Pen Park. I'd spent many an afternoon there during grad school with my dogs. For whatever reason, our family really really loves that place. We've seen all manner of wildlife there - deer, snakes, skunks. My kids think it's a wild safari.
The week ended way too soon, and Monday we were on a flight back to Tulsa. Unlike the trip out, it was uneventful, easy even. Leaving wasn't. I'll miss you Virginia. A lot.
Can't wait until I'm back again.