The below column written several years ago is one of my favorites. I suppose because it sort of centers on my beloved Tennessee. I was an adult when I first came to live in Tennessee. But it kind of felt like home from the start. I've written in other places about a family story which I can't verify and which might explain why I feel about it as i do. If you believe that the places our forbears lived is imprinted on our DNA. Other explanations abound. Such as an unhappy childhood so a relocation might be sought. But my childhood was fairly happy, even though we were poor. As a child I figured Georgia would always be my home and felt no desire that life be otherwise. My daughter has returned to Georgia to live now. Perhaps she'll stay. Or not. Life often brings changes we never anticipated. If someone had told me I'd spend the far greater portion of my life in Tennessee and eventually write novels I would have been amazed. But so it happened.
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I was born in the state of Georgia. So I have to say I’m a Georgia native even though I have lived in Tennessee more than three times as long as I did in Georgia. Similar to a person who holds citizenship in two different countries, I call it ‘dual citizenship.’ Probably a lot of people fit that description. My late husband was born in Virginia but his family moved to Kingsport when he was two years old and he grew up here. He served in the Navy for four years but Kingsport was still home. After the Navy he lived in South Carolina for about a year and then Georgia, where we met, for a couple of years. But the major part of his life was in Tennessee.
A writer friend was born in Kentucky but her family moved to Kingsport when she was very young. She grew up, married a Tennessean and has continued to live in Kingsport. They visit Kentucky far more often than I visit Georgia, since their daughter lives there. So she could plausibly claim to be a Kentucky and a Tennessee native. Though I doubt that would be acceptable on the myriad forms we all have to deal with in daily life.
Another writer friend was born in Southwest Virginia but her family moved to Tennessee when she was barely a teenager. She was graduated from high school here, married, had two sons. She returned to Virginia and lived there until about twelve years ago when she moved back to Tennessee to be near her family. Most likely more than a few folks in these adjoining corners of Tennessee and Virginia have followed a similar path, in both directions.
My own daughter was born in Atlanta, Georgia during the two years we lived there after I married. But she lived in Kingsport, graduated from Dobyns Bennett, attended Maryville College and ETSU and worked in Kingsport. She always wanted to go back to Georgia and eventually she did move to Atlanta. About six years was enough for her. She returned to Tennessee and seems quite satisfied to be back. Like myself, she’s happy enough to acknowledge that she was born in Georgia, but these Tennessee mountains are home.