This week marks my seven-year anniversary of moving to North Carolina! While it may seem like a bit of a random anniversary number to celebrate, this milestone makes this the longest I have ever lived in one place.
North Carolina wasn’t a “love at first sight” situation to me, the way Austin (the city I had moved from) had been. It hasn’t been the heart-quickening infatuation I have with New York or Charleston. Rather, it was like a friendship…one that grew and deepened over time, nestling into my heart until it felt undeniably like home.
I remember my first trip here, flying over the pines with two suitcases that my soon-to-be-coworker had offered to hold onto for a few weeks, lightening the load I’d have to pack into my Honda Accord. My childhood best friend had driven down from Virginia for a little getaway and she picked me up from the airport. We spent the weekend apartment hunting in Chapel Hill and Durham and accidentally stumbling upon one of the Triangle’s best biscuit sources (hello there, throwback Instagram post!).
At first, I expected that my time here would be temporary, and I’d be back in Austin after a few years. Austin is an easy city to love and a hard one to leave, but the dream job I had scored was in Chapel Hill–a town that I knew only for the two never-submitted application essays to UNC that still sat on my computer. I think I would have loved Chapel Hill as a college town. In post-grad life, though, the nearby suburb I ended up in felt far too sleepy for my taste.
During Dave’s monthly visits from Syracuse, though, we began to explore the surrounding areas, indulging in the world’s best BLTs at Merritt’s, wandering aimlessly around Durham, and envisioning our future wedding the moment we walked into Sacred Heart Cathedral in downtown Raleigh. The day he drove into my apartment parking lot, his own car packed with everything he owned but furniture, was a day I’ll never forget. After spending our entire relationship long-distance, he took a leap of faith and moved down before securing a job, and it was one of the best and bravest things he has ever done for me…not to mention, a decision that paid off almost instantly. He went from his Duke law school friend’s couch to his own apartment in Cary, edging us closer to the city of Raleigh that we were slowly coming to love.
Before we were expecting Charlie, I fought the idea of buying a house here. I didn’t care that it made sense financially. It meant putting down some roots, and that scared me. I had moved four times in five years and a house seemed so…permanent. But, hoping to honor my new husband, I agreed to pray about it. And as I did, I realized how very much this place had to offer once I began looking at it through a long-term lens. The city was growing and changing rapidly. Taller buildings filled the skyline, shading the creative boutiques and buzz-worthy restaurants that were popping up beneath them. Through my job, I experienced the delight and convenience of having so many vibrant cities within driving distance; on the weekends, Dave and I explored the beaches in one direction and the mountains in the other. Friendships deepened. We poured into our church. And then, one January evening, a test said “pregnant.”
Before my first ultrasound, I told Dave that if we were having twins, we were moving to Texas to be closer to family, no questions asked. If it was one baby, we could buy a house here. Our realtor found out we were expecting before either of our parents did. A few months later, we were signing on the dotted line for a sunny little ranch house north of Raleigh–the house we would bring Charlie home to that September.
We may not be native Raleighites, or even native North Carolinians. But here we are. This state is the backdrop of our engagement and our marriage and our family. Our wedding was here, our babies were born here, the two houses we have owned are here. We are regulars at our favorite bagel spot and I’ve logged hours upon hours of writing at my go-to coffee shop. We have deep-seated opinions about local beers, pizza joints, and ice cream shops. We cheer on the Carolina Panthers, the Durham Bulls, and the UNC Tar Heels. We have a favorite beach parking spot and a favorite Blue Ridge parkway drive. We live five minutes from a James Beard award-winning chef’s restaurant in one direction and sweeping dairy farmland the other.
Most of all, we have seven years’ worth of memories ingrained in this place, friends that have become like family, and the comforting sense that this is where we are meant to be.
Heading down south to the land of the pines
I’m thumbing my way into North Caroline
Staring up the road and pray to God I see headlights
I made it down the coast in seventeen hours
Picking me a bouquet of dogwood flowers
And I’m a-hopin’ for Raleigh, I can see my baby tonight
So rock me momma like a wagon wheel
Rock me momma any way you feel
Hey, momma rock me
Rock me momma like the wind and the rain
Rock me momma like a south bound train
Hey, momma rock me.