Today I bought one-way tickets out of Charleston.
There may be prettier places on earth, but at the moment, I can’t think of one. As I write this, the setting sun dances in the leaves of my backyard trees. The wind whispers and the Spanish moss lifts its tendrils in reply. Birds talk to each other. And here I sit, the lone audience to this sunset concert.
But it was the little things about South Carolina that captured me.
Like when I would write under the great arms of a live oak tree. Along with it being an ideal spot for shade, the tree performed living art whenever a strong gust of wind came, and the leaves spiraled down on me.
Or when my son shook a millipede in his cupped hands*, the faint whiff of cherry coke wafted by. (*A park ranger taught us how to shake a millipede, and as far as I know, it does not hurt the millipedes. It only works with cherry millipedes).
Or last year when my then one-year-old and four-year-old learned to swim, and I thought my chest would burst from pride.
As a Midwest girl, I didn’t expect “All y’all” to slip out of my mouth as I yelled at the neighborhood kids biking up and down my drive to come get a treat.
These are the treasures I will remember.
We moved to Charleston three years ago. I had hit that heavy period of pregnancy, and I was ready to burst. Thankfully, the move was quick, and I nested like a frantic bird.
My son and I checked out the local hangouts. Made friends at the library. Found a church we could be a part of. Then, in just a matter of weeks, baby girl was born. The whole family was tickled pink.
South Carolina became dotted with my daughter’s firsts. Like a tourist with an unknown amount of vacation days, we explored Charleston to the fullest.
Our first outing as a family of four was to Evo Bakery. We sat on the wooden picnic benches and ate our treats.
Me: A chai latte while baby girl slept in my arms.
My husband: Iced coffee.
My son: A chocolate pastry bigger than his head.
Later we’d discover that our favorite Evo treat was the rosemary goat cheese scones. We’d find that if a train blocked our commute home, Evo would beckon us. It lured, “Traffic isn’t moving. Make a U-ey. Come get a treat.”
My daughter learned to crawl and then walk at Old Santee Canal. We’d bump along the root-covered trails in her stroller and find a place to eat and explore, either on a boardwalk bench near the swamp or a picnic table by the river. One winter, we watched a playful otter. We learned about the local flora and fauna. Spotted turtles and alligators and so many birds.
But several months ago, the call came: A job transfer for my husband. We decided the kids and I would stay to finish off the school year while my husband went before us. But we didn’t know a pandemic was coming.
We had a list of all our favorite places we wanted to visit before our relocation.
There were birthday parties to plan. A kindergarten graduation to attend.
We had so many people to thank: School teachers and music teachers. Swim lessons to finish. There were special friends we wanted to spend time with before our big move across the country.
But it wasn’t meant to be.
So many rhythms have been interrupted due to COVID-19. Our moving complication feels minor compared to others.
I am grateful.
I’m especially grateful for our experience here.
We found a school that was the right fit for our son—a community with a vision that fits our own.
We experienced hurricane scares and slurped she-crab soup.
We hugged the Angel Oak.
I know we are fortunate.
We have food, a place to move to, our health.
My husband has a job.
We have friends and family who support us, both in Charleston and abroad. We have so many beautiful memories of our time here.
But I’m sad about leaving Charleston. I don’t know what our life will look like in the new place.
I’m sure we’ll move forward. We’ll discover new places to hang out, and we’ll find new foods to crave.
Most importantly, our family will be together again.
Tomorrow I will figurately, “kick up my heels.” I’ll hunker down and make a plan. I’ll figure out how my children can say goodbye to friends while adhering to social distancing etiquette.
I’ll remember that Charleston’s history is long. Their can-do spirit is contagious. When everything opens up again, the people of Charleston will support local. They’ll find a way to flourish again.
As a family, even in a new location, we will, too.
But tonight, just let me be sad.
Goodbye, Charleston. You will forever be a part of my family’s history.