My family lived for sixteen years in what became one of the shopping nightmares (er, attractions) of our county. When we moved to Snellville in 1988, we lived in a nice quiet neighorhood overlooking a two-lane highway. *enter soothing violin music* Across the highway was a farmhouse and a lake. *tweeting of birds* There were pastures down the road, the traffic was decent, and there was a pleasant selection of stores from which to choose.
Unfortunately Snellville did not stay that way. *enter scary music* Evil developers took over the area, cramming our small, quiet town full of store after store after store. *music becomes fast-paced and jarring* The traffic became a nightmare; on a Saturday it could well take 20 minutes to traverse one mile along the formerly-two-lane highway, which had become five lanes. We kept thinking that every possible store had been built within a 2-mile radius of our home, but then we would discover that we were missing that 30th clothing store or that 10th shoe store.
By the time we moved from Snellville we had four grocery stores within a mile of our home. We had three drug stores on the same corner by our house, five counting the Target and Publix that were also on that corner; I won't begin to list all the other drug stores within a mile from our home. We had a Target and a Wal-Mart and a Sam's. We also had a Home Depot and a Lowe's. Restaurants? We had them in abundance. Clothing stores? Yeah, boy. Craft stores? Yes, siree, and I won't complain about those. . . Office and Electronic Stores? I lost count. A hospital? Yep, that too. And a towering many-story physicians office. And a dentist office. And a few jewelry stores. And a car dealership. And a movie theater. And a bowling alley. *enter Christmas music with full orchestra* And a partridge in a pear tree. . .
That only begins to scratch the surface. Trust me. The shopping centers kept popping out of the snow. . . like daisies!
The last straw was when the houses right across the street were sold and up went a bee-yoo-ti-ful buffer in the place of the houses that were formerly facing us. If they were going to build anyway, couldn't they have just taken out one more row of houses? We finally had enough of the traffic and development in our once-fair city, and 15 months ago we moved to the northern part of our county. *soothing violin music resumes*
It's quieter here by comparison. *birds resume tweeting* There are pastures within a few miles of our home and we love the woodsy park nearby. We live a few miles from the next county, which instantly becomes rural as the county line appears. Our neighborhood has an abundance of trees, and Hannah loves the nice lampposts that dot our streets ;).
Our new location comes with disadvantages, however; we now live ten minutes from the nearest Wal-Mart instead of a mere three minutes. I know, I know, the sacrifices! The inconveniences! *sympathetic violin music plays* However, don't feel too bad for us, since another Wal-Mart is now being built right outside our neighborhood, making the 10th Wal-Mart within a thirty-minute drive of our home. *sympathetic music ceases*
You see, compared to Snellville it's not crowded where we live now, but it's still quite congested! We live in a rapidly-developing area, which I fear may turn into the next Snellvillopolis. *shudder* We seem to have moved away from one shopping mecca right into another, albeit currently a little smaller. *fast-paced music returns*
We now live eight minutes from the largest mall in the Southeast. Is there a real need for two Bath and Body Works stores in a single mall? We won't even discuss the "need" for one Victoria's Secret store, let alone the second. By the way, I've decided that I feel extremely sorry for my brothers in Christ. The visual stimuli they endure on a daily basis, especially in places like a public mall, is truly saddening. It makes me want to buy blinders as gifts for the (few) men in my life.
I do like some things about the mall. It's very convenient as an indoor walking track on cold or rainy days :). Early on Saturday mornings are the best, before the shops have opened and the crowds have arrived. The IMAX in the mall is fun at times as well, such as opening day of LOTR or CoN. . . though the power outage during RotK was not fun. *enter menacing music*
Opening day of RotK. Sold-out IMAX theater filled with college-age geeks. I felt very normal compared to my fellow movie-goers. Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas approach the Paths of the Dead. *music gets scarier* Captain Obvious dazily murmurs, "The way is shut." ZAP! *screen goes blank* And the geeks go nuts.
But back to the topic of this post. In general there are really just too many stores in our whole county. Our county is one of the fastest-growing in the nation. People just keep pouring in from all over the place, and they are more-than-willing to monetarily support the ever-increasing number of stores.
I feel that at some point Gwinnett (and Metro Atlanta in general) has to burst at the scenes. We have 106 public schools in our county (and many more on the drawing board), in addition to zillions of private schools. The largest public high school in the county has about 3600 students, and there are several others not far behind. In our calling area alone there are three area codes that we can dial without being charged long-distance; we have to dial 10 digits on the phone just to reach our neighbor! Apply the fundamental counting principle to discover just how many phone numbers that means there are in our calling area, subtracting off for numbers that begin with zero or have "9-1-1" in succession :). The traffic here is horrid as well, due to the high volume of cars; one of our interstates is soon to be expanded to 23 lanes! I'm not making this up :-P. In summary, we just have a lot of people.
For years I have dreamed of someday moving away from Metro Atlanta. I just want some space, fresh air, a little elbow room. I'd like to live in a place where the speed limits actually mean something. I've dreamed of moving out to a more rural area someday, or back up North to Indiana, where my family has roots. Southern Indiana, in particular, is my favorite part of the country. *wistful sigh*
But, do you know what I've discovered? Home is not Indiana, or the country, or "somewhere besides Metro Atlanta." My home is ultimately in heaven; I'm just a stranger here, passing through. Furthermore, my earthly home is not so much a plot of land, or a geographical area; it's where my family is. To me, home is family.
Except for a few exceptions, all of my childhood memories of home are of our house in Snellville. Our house there was my home (our home) for sixteen years, from the time I was four until I was twenty. That was where I learned to read, to write, to do arithmetic; all my pre-college schooling took place within those walls. I learned calculus there, and it was there that I discovered Jane Austen :). It is the place where I first embraced the faith of my parents. I played with my childhood friends there, and somewhere, still buried in the backyard, is a time capsule placed there by three adventurous little girls. Our backyard was the Oregon Trail, an Indian village, and a refuge for abused orphans. We played countless games of kickball in the front yard, and I can still remember exactly where the bases were. I learned to bike ride and skate on our street; we took countless walks through our neighborhood. We laughed, cried, and lived together; my brother, sister, and I grew to adulthood there. So many memories are wrapped up in my humble childhood home.
Despite fond childhood memories in Snellville, I was quite willing to move when we left Snellville. I had endured the congestion long enough, and I was ready for a change of scenery. I did wonder, however, how I would adjust to a new home and city after sixteen years in the same place. Most of my friends had moved a number of times during their childhood, but I hadn't experienced that; I had lived in the same place for a long time.
Much to my surprise, though, I didn't have a hard time adjusting to my new surroundings when we moved from Snellville. It certainly helped that I was slightly familiar with the area prior to the move. My surprise, though, was not my easy adjustment to our new area, but my easy adjustment to our new house. I thought it would be weird and difficult for me to think of our new house as our home, but it wasn't. I can count on one hand the number of times I, for a brief moment, woke up thinking I was in Snellville. I never had a deep sinking feeling about leaving my childhood home behind, and I was instantly able to transfer my mental title "home" to our new house. Yes, our old house holds a special place in my heart, but our current house is home to me, not the house where we used to live.
The more I thought about it, though, the more it made sense. What made my childhood memories special was not the house in which they took place, but the people that were a part of those memories, and most of my fond childhood memories are intimately linked with my family. Home is not a place; home is family. A physical abode or physical possessions have value, but family is much more important; family is what turns a house into a home (Mr. Pendleton would say that it takes a woman's hand or a child's heart). My immediate family is here, not in Snellville or Indiana or anywhere else, so here is home because home is family.
So, I've decided that even though I hate Metro Atlanta, my family lives here (except Brother Dear), so it's home for me. Maybe someday I will become part of a new family, living either in Metro Atlanta or elsewhere, but my sense of home will not be determined by where I am, but with whom I am. If I am with people I love, I am home. And no matter where I am, I can look forward to my heavenly home, that will far surpass even Southern Indiana.