It was a little surreal driving back into Chattanooga almost a year and a half after we’d driven out of the city and into the unknown. Because we were arriving later in the evening we decided to get a hotel room downtown rather than disturb the friends we’d be staying with for the week. As we checked into the Marriott Courtyard and then walked over to Mellow Mushroom Pizza on Broad Street for a late dinner, I definitely felt like one of the weekend tourists coming in to enjoy the riverfront, the Tennessee Aquarium and the city’s other “stay-cation” attractions.
We weren’t tourists, though. Chattanooga had been our family’s home for over 8 years. During our time in this city we’d made lifelong friends, become part of the community, started businesses and lived in multiple homes. In fact, in a strange blending of life’s many facets, during this visit we would be staying in one of the houses we’d once owned because it’s now the home of some of our best friends.
Chattanooga was and always will be a special place to us. It would have been very easy to come back, step into the life we’d had and pick up right where we’d left off. However, the easy choice isn’t always the right choice. Our tour through different climates and hemispheres had confirmed something our family already knew. We belong in the mountains…the snowy mountains. Sorry, Chatt friends. I love Lookout and Signal Mountains too, but they aren’t quite the same.
So here we were back in Chattanooga for a visit rather than forever. We had the opportunity to give a number of talks about our travels during our stay. We want to thank the Chattanooga Women’s Leadership Institute, Chattanooga State Community College and the Downtown Rotary Club for letting me share a little about our family’s journey.
David Cook, my favorite writer for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, also wrote a column about our family’s return and helped publicize the event that would be service project #57– a fundraiser for the local PBS station, WTCI.
Through my career and community roles I’d been lucky enough to be involved with the great work of WTCI president Paul Grove and his station team as they bring quality, commercial-free television to the region. Our visit to Chattanooga gave us the opportunity to give back to this organization, which had entertained our family for years. With the help of the Granfalloon event venue and a number of local sponsors, we turned the story of our family’s journey into a fundraiser. Attendees made donations to the station and we auctioned off large prints of Brian’s photography from our trip.
It was a great evening for our family and we’re so appreciative of all the people who came to hear about our journey. We reunited with old friends and met people who had been following our blog. That night we even met up with Teletha and Mike McJunkin, friends who were about to embark on their own overseas adventure. The Tuesday after the event they left for Thailand and will be living in Southeast Asia for the next year. As our journey was ending, theirs was beginning. PBS filmed our presentation that night, so we’ll be able to share a video sometime in the near future for those who’d like to see it.
Leaving Chattanooga at the end of the week was certainly bittersweet. As we said goodbye to friends and invited them to visit us in Colorado, we could feel a familiar sadness creep in just as it had the first time we’d packed up and left this town. And like that first time, there were also a few tears as we drove away.
Special thanks to the sponsors of our fundraiser for WTCI:
Peak Fitness and Physical Therapy
Society of Work
Jay Perry Law Office
Mustang Leadership Partners