Atlanta, Athens, and Childhood Memories

Days 26-30: May 13th – 17th, 2015

It was already a sunny day in Atlanta by the time we woke up. In many ways Atlanta has been one of few constants in our lives. When we lived in Athens, it was a short drive to visit family there, and we did so often. Allison and I have many memories in our aunt’s house.

On this morning, we woke up to delicious fruit and cacao nib smoothies and scrambled eggs freshly produced by the 30 chickens that reside in the coop in the backyard. We balanced the breakfast further by having steamed broccoli and a mini bagel. We spent the morning swinging on the hammock chairs on their porch and getting more administrative work and blogging done, something we found to be increasingly more difficult as the trip continued. We felt strongly that we had limited time in each place with each person, and we were determined to spend it experiencing and making memories. That afternoon we got some great laughs in at a nearby Ronald McDonald House. We got there early enough to set up the room with our posters and our sponsors' coupons and cards. We had a bigger crowd than we were becoming used to, which was wonderful. One young woman and her son, Brandon, were particularly memorable. We stayed and talked with them for a while after the session ended, sharing RMHC experiences and learning about what life is like for them right now. Our cousin surprised us by coming home that night. We picked him up at the airport and spent the night singing with guitars.

Keep Smiling cards and Tug and the Tooth Coupons

Thursday we took as a day off. We lazed around for a good chunk of the day, going through my aunt’s essential oils, piling into her bed to talk and reminisce before she announced she was treating us both to our first ever acupuncture sessions. I remember lying on the table trying to clear my mind of everything and let the needles do their work. It must have worked because I woke up suddenly on the table and involuntarily jerked my wrist in a position that disagreed with the respective needle. It was painful, and I immediately attempted to fall back into the heavy sleep I had awoken from. There was a cold temperature running through my veins. I actually enjoyed the whole experience except for the bruise that came from the wrist jerk. Before we left, the owner gave us each a special kind of toothbrush with beeswax toothpaste, which we thought was very serendipitous given the theme of our En-Rout trip. Allison went to a farmer’s market with our aunt while I stayed and hung out with my cousin. The time never ceases to move too quickly.

Friday was a difficult day. We woke up to the very upsetting news that B.B. King had died and it was the one-year anniversary of our friend’s death. We repacked the car, this time consolidating and getting rid of the roof rack we had acquired in Mississippi. We were already becoming frustrated with the inconvenience of living out of our car. The constant inability to effortlessly access anything was slowly driving us crazy. It reminded us how lucky we are to have grown up in a house and to be able to return to it until we decide what’s next.

In preparation for Friday night’s dinner, we made challah from scratch. Making challah with our aunt is one of my favorite bread-making rituals because there is so much intentionality and mindfulness in it. Each step represents things that you want to mix in or sift out of your life. There’s a reason people advertise food made with love. Anything that is prepared with good thoughts, love, positivity and wishes tastes better when you eat it. There is a lot of symbolism in challah making. My favorite is pouring the honey in the measuring cup until it overflows onto the other ingredients. We do this because the sweetness should be overflowing in all aspects of our lives, not to mention it adds to the delicious flavor.

The following morning we finished packing the car, said our goodbyes, and headed to meet a lifelong friend for a killer breakfast at Highland Bakery before returning to our roots in Athens.

The home of the University of Georgia Bulldogs is the home of our childhood. The first thing we did in Athens was swing by our old house on McNutts Creek Court. It looks pretty much the same except improved upon. The Crepe Myrtle tree that was planted for Jacqueline has been replaced with a different one. We rode around the neighborhood sharing memories of the residents in various houses. I’ll never forget trick-or-treating at the house of the new Asian family who must have thought we were looking for donations because they gave us a full box of Ritz crackers. We went by Timothy, Allison’s elementary school that I too would have attended had we stayed. It was there that she tripped on a tree-root and ended up needing eight stitches. Around the corner from Timothy is the Aronson’s house where climbing the giant Magnolia tree placed us in an imaginary jungle world. I remember how dark green the leaves looked from inside the tree and the way the sun sparkled through between thick branches. I was always on the bottom of climb as the youngest and most fearful of falling in the group. So many memories in their house, and so many Peking orders of corn soup during visits back to Georgia once we’d moved. It isn’t even their house anymore. So much has changed in twenty years.

We parked at Preschool Academy, which we had both attended. We peeked in the windows and stared at the playground. It was on the rim of this wooden stopping ground that Allison remembers having her first conscious thought, recognizing that she was a human being and that she was thinking and perceiving and actually aware of this. My memories of Preschool Academy are a little more hazy. I remember Ms. Fanny, the cook. I remember insisting to the teachers that I could eat a hot dog like everyone else even though my mom had told them I couldn’t, then finally convincing them to bring me one and hating and refusing to eat it. I didn’t realize there was a difference between the all beef franks at home and the pork filled ones at school. I remember passing out and receiving valentine cards. I remember sitting on the colorful rug and singing Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah in English and Spanish. I remember this little boy, Josh, and how we used to hug everyday before we got picked up by our mothers. And I remember what it felt like to be on the wooden playground outside, especially the clanking bridge. Freedom.

After driving around recognizable landmarks at UGA, we located the nearby cemetery Jacqueline is buried in. We have driven with our parents through the cemetery many times and pretty much know how to find her. It was very emotional. We couldn’t help but look at the empty plots next to her headstone and think that our parents were going to lay to rest there with her, but now that is not the case. We put stones on her grave as we always do, but this time was different. I’d never been here without my parents. We knew that what was in front of us was a part of our lives and who we are but it seemed like a lifetime ago. So many things were shaped by the life and death of our sister, but more of our lives have been spent with her gone than with her around. I couldn’t even remember how many years it had been since I had been to visit this crazy thing we call a grave. We laid out a blanket to play guitar on. We attempted to sing songs our parents sang to the three of us as children, but the lyrics were muffled by tears. Nothing is or will ever be as it was or even as it is now.

We paid our respects to a few others we knew who were resting there before leaving the cemetery. We then had to attempt to switch gears to a happier mindset to meet our friend Stephanie who was working at Copper Creek. We went in to visit and wandered around downtown a bit. As we were about to head back to Stephanie’s for some down time, I felt a large, wet raindrop splatter my arm with the forceful help of gravity. I looked down to find it was not a raindrop at all, however, and I couldn’t believe that for the fourth time in my life a bird had pooped on me. What are the chances? An inch to left and I would have been in the clear. That night we went to meet old friends at The Globe followed by shakes and fries at The Grill. We couldn’t help but assume these are places we would have frequented has we stayed and grown up in Athens instead of Minneapolis. Initially we had given ourselves a solid three days in Athens, but the nature of a road trip is ever changing and or plans were altered for multiple reasons.

We still consider Athens our hometown in many ways and before we left we enjoyed a delicious southern style breakfast at Mama’s Boy. Everything on the table from the grits to the strawberry lemonade, the peach French toast and the poppy seed butter was mouthwateringly delectable. We gave downtown another walk around and ended up leaving a large stack of Keep Smiling cards at a Native America Boutique that requested them. We had been handing these cards out everywhere we went, but to have someone genuinely interested in distributing them was really exiting. Benefitting our sponsors is important to us, and we were happy to be able to make a connection for the Keep Smiling Movement. We said goodbye to Georgia with Arden’s Garden smoothies in hand, and began a drive to North Carolina that we hadn’t made in over twenty years.

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