As summer ends, Savannah fills with a sense of atmospheric foreboding. It’s straight out of a Flannery O’Connor story: thunderstorms, violence, redemption, and despair. I’m prone to introspection in this Southern gothic season. And yes, perhaps, salad.
J starts his last (truncated) year at SCAD in a few weeks, and I just welcomed the last new class of my career at the law school. We officially have itchy feet. Roughly 250 days from now, we’ll be boxing up our lives and heading off on our next grand adventure. Whatever that may be, I’m ready.
Three years ago, when we were deliberating between a set of acceptance letters, the choice to move to Savannah seemed preordained. In one week, we met three people from another city we were considering. Each one told us point-blank that we shouldn’t move there. It was uncanny and yes, a little freaky, yet it emboldened us. Savannah it was.
Naturally, everyone thought we were insane. After much cajoling, our in-laws bought us tickets to visit. Just check it out before you commit four years of your lives. We stepped off the plane and entered an enchanted city on a balmy mid-November day. Horse-drawn carriages made their time-frozen passages around verdant squares. The sun shone warmly as we promenaded down oak-lined lanes. Draped in Spanish moss, they were as beautiful then as the day they stopped General Sherman in his tracks. The college, of course, was perfect, with state-of-the-art facilities and cheerful tour guides heaping praise on the school’s reputation and enviable career placement statistics. We were in.
Fast forward to the following August. We arrived to suffocating heat, flying cockroaches, and a hyper-competitive rental market. What happened to that affordable place with 14 chandeliers that we were drooling over on Craigslist a few months ago? After two weeks of scrolling through outdated rental listings and touring dilapidated houses carved willy-nilly into collegiate domiciles, we found something. There was a hole in the bedroom floor, but it had eleven-foot ceilings and a decorative butterfly fireplace. We signed the lease and breathed a sigh of relief.
After a long day of unpacking boxes and marveling at the quantity of dead cockroaches, we were awakened at 2:00 a.m. by gunshots and a terrible crash. As we found out later, it was a double homicide, unsolved to this day. A cop came to our door the next morning and asked if we had any information. “No, we just moved in yesterday.” He flipped his notebook shut. “You should check the crime statistics before you rent a place,” he said curtly, and left me standing on the front steps questioning every decision of the last eight months.
Three years later, I couldn’t tell you what our purpose is here. The everyday frustrations of supporting your spouse through college are not helped by Savannah’s geographic and historic isolation. Endemic crime and corruption are an ever-present reminder that the “New South” is largely a fairytale. Yes, J has received a crack education, but he’s fought hard for every inch of ground. It turns out that Industrial Design students have excellent prospects, but not in the automotive industry that’s always been his Emerald City in the distance. Still, he’s made excellent contacts and grown immeasurably as a student and a person. I don’t say it nearly enough, but I am proud.
My time here has not felt as productive. It’s hard not to feel stuck, as if I am waiting for my life to begin. Savannah is hard to love: a beautiful woman with a dirty face. But nonetheless, some graffiti en route to the grocery store promises this: You are exactly where you need to be.
So I am straining to listen above shrieking cicadas and sirens, to practice empathy and presence, to find beauty in gnarled roots and the juxtaposition of ornate rooflines and sharp sky. And making peach and corn salad, just because.
- sliced peaches
- fresh corn, sliced off the cob with a sharp knife
- bibb or butter lettuce, torn
- crunchy toppings: almonds, kasha, or pumpkin seeds
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup diced onion
- 2 Tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 3 Tablespoons cider vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- Blend dressing ingredients until smooth. Taste and adjust salt/pepper if needed.
- Pile lettuce onto your serving plate and top with corn, peaches, and crunch of your choice. Drizzle with dressing and enjoy.