Back in 1995 I was a working girl in a Boston suburb, dating a guy who had a locker next to mine in high school (we “re-met” at our five year reunion and some sparks flew).  My older sister was living in Kansas City while her husband trained for the Olympics (saber fencing) and attended Cleveland Chiropractic College.  We went to visit.

Celebrating our first night in Charlotte, 1996

October in New England is cold. October in Kansas City is top-down weather when you’re driving your brother-in-laws convertible.  We looked at each other and wondered: “Why do we live in New England?”

Next thing I know I’m laid off (marketing is a great career choice if you like getting laid off).  Since I was enrolled to start my MBA part-time I switched to a full-time program and took advantage of my rent-free existence (thanks mom and dad!) and hit the books.  An engagement ring came later that year, but I liked getting A’s, so I opted for a long engagement and focused on the marketing, finance, etc. books instead of wedding magazines.

My then-fiance was commuting 90 minutes one-way to get to the financial district in Boston.  A 15 minute car ride, a 50 minute express train ride, and a 15 minute walk – regardless of the weather.  We started looking at our options and didn’t like what we saw.  Long commutes, cold weather, and houses out of our price range.  What kind of a life would we have if we stayed in the area?

The 1996 Olympics took my family to Atlanta to cheer on my brother-in-law, so we made a side trip to Charlotte to look around.  Being a banking town, it was a natural place for my then-fiance to get a job, and I could pretty much work in any city.  Later that year we drove down and found a cheap apartment, and in November of 1996 we hired a moving company, packed up our two cars, and drove away.

Me and my dad, 1997

I’ll never forget that day.  I remember telling my parents I loved them, and that I was so grateful I moved back home after college.  I got to spend time with them as an adult.  It wasn’t always easy, and it wasn’t what I had planned to do, but I was so glad it worked out that way.

We didn’t have jobs, but we had some interviews lined up and money in the bank.  No kids, no pets, no house.  We knew we could always move back if it didn’t work out.  We knew that if we didn’t try this out we’d spend the rest of our lives wondering “what if” – so we drove South.

I had interviews lined up and got a job within week, so our first Thanksgiving together was very thankful.

About six weeks later we fly back to Boston for Christmas, and were shocked to hear my sister and brother-in-law tell us they were moving to Charlotte!  WOW!

We loved our new life together in Charlotte.  We bought a house, got married (in that order…my parents were less than comfortable with that at the time), and enjoyed our life as a two career family, with two cats.  Children were something we would do later, neither of us were ready to start a family.

In 2001 I got laid off, again.  I was working on a knowledge management Intranet project for Cisco, and when their stock price tanked our project got cut.  The next day a friend called and asked if I’d help him with a new venture, so suddenly I was a contractor.   This all ended up being a good thing as my father’s prostate cancer returned, this time in his liver.  Not having a boss to answer to I was able to easily fly north and spend time with my parents.  He died late August at the relatively young age of 62, still not a grandfather.

I wanted to start a family.  It was time.

Part 2