We should have known. We arrived in mid-September, one of the best times of the year for the Queen City. Carolina blue sky welcomed us the day we drove in and remained a constant sight for weeks thereafter. The weather was perfect, it felt like the perfect 75-degree day, everyday and that awesome weather lasted well into December.
I remember having lunch at the Fox and Hound on Tryon Street, Uptown. We had picked up several free magazines on the walk over: Uptown Magazine, Creative Loafing, and Skirt. The waitress immediately engaged us in conversation upon arriving at our table. I thought she was just a friendly server but the same hospitality was extended at the grocery store and Starbucks next day. No one behind me in line batted an eye when the barista asked how I was, and actually waited for a response. I felt like I had been transported into a foreign land.
A co-worker introduced me to NASCAR. Another taught me Southern terms like, “over yonder,” “might could,” “having your picture made,” “mashing a button,” and “right quick.” I learned that “bless your heart” was not a compliment. I embraced the word, “y’all.” I found the best fried chicken place ever (Price’s Chicken Coop) and drank sweet tea like it was spring water.
Football season arrived and we met friends of friends. They were serious tailgaters who opened up their home to friends for every home game. They continued the tradition even when they had their daughter.
There were a core group of 10 of us. We ate, drank, and played together. You could often find one of us at Connolly’s on 5th. One other friend called us a herd. We thought of ourselves as a commune. If we were without a car, someone else let us borrow theirs. If a washer or dryer was out, we’d go to another’s home. We looked out for each other’s pets, houses, and spouses. Eventually, our commune grew into a community of friends. We had holiday dinners, celebrated birthdays, and toast accomplishments. We took joint vacations. We collected toys for children during the holidays, tried to help build a home for Habitat for Humanities, spearheaded Mustaches for Kids, to raise money for supplies needed in local classrooms and collected clothes for homeless men.
Hubby and I settled into Charlotte. It felt like home.
So it goes without saying, it was extremely difficult to leave. The freelance job I took in Boston became permanent.
In the meantime, I’m bringing y’all to Boston. (The phrase and not the literal y’all, though if you’re in town… let me know!)