While it has been several weeks since I have returned from my second trip to Tuscaloosa, it is important to write about this trip because it was so drastically different than the first one, where Barton and I traveled together.
This time, I drove the entire 13-hour trip alone, stopped to say hello to a friend that I had missed on the first trip, and arrived at my friend’s house completely exhausted. The next morning, I woke, and was on my way- I spent the morning at the Junior League Art Gallery at the Bama Theatre taking down photographs and artwork.
Before taking anything off the walls, I spent a few minutes- just mom and me time. I celebrating the passion for creativity that she passed down to me through her life, her work, and her genes. I celebrated how far I had come in my own photographs, and even though I still don’t own a digital camera, was excited about the level of photography I was able to exhibit. I thought I would feel sad, write in my journal about how much I missed my mom, but instead I found myself writing about the celebrations in my own life.
Packing framed artwork in my little Honda was no easy feat (in 98 degree sun), and before I left, I was able to have lunch with a dear friend of mine from where I had worked and a new friend that I had met on our first trip in June.
I did take time to drive around town one last time, to see the places where I had lived, where I had been. There were more blue tarps and many more roads were clear of debris, but honestly, there was still a huge amount of work to do.
Like a tourist, I had to get a picture of the Moonwinx Hotel. I remember my grandfather telling me that at one time, it was the most popular restaurant in town, but while I lived there is was pay-by-the-hour/day motel. I walked across the street to say hello to a friend at the local drugstore, who was so lucky they were able to open after just a few weeks.
I stopped by Alberta Elementary School, where my grandmother had taught reading, now just a pile of steel and concrete.
And sat for a minute in the parking lot to the Baptist Church, still a central point for providing community support to so many people.
I drove through Falls Lake, partly because I couldn’t believe that for the 7-years I lived in Tuscaloosa, I didn’t realize there was a lake there, now fully exposed.
I stopped by The Salvation Army, where I had worked with the Woman’s Auxiliary, where I organized “An Evening of Chocolate.”
And I drove by Hobby Lobby where I picked up supplies for art projects.
Though the sanctuary wasn’t open, I peaked through the doors of my church, said hello to the volunteers working in the community hall, and sat for a minute on the grounds. Here is where we had the memorial service for my mother. Here is where I said good-bye to an important relationship. Here is where I found my connection to my faith and so many close friends that I now call my family.
I even drove around my neighborhood again, I just couldn’t leave without saying good-bye.
Each one of these places meant so much to me when I lived in Tuscaloosa, but now, it was time to return home. After all, I couldn’t return to the girl I had been when I lived there. And now, there are new adventures waiting for me at home, new places to go, new experiences and lessons to be learned.