I am celebrating my 40th wedding anniversary this weekend.
No, not to my wife. We said our vows on another July day four years later.
I married Macon on July 7, 1978. That was the day I moved here, started paying taxes and began learning how to endure the summer heat and pronounce Pio Nono Avenue.
It was not a blind date, lengthy courtship or arranged marriage. In many ways, we are still on our honeymoon.
There is a legend from the Creek Indians that claims folks who settle on the banks of the Ocmulgee River are never allowed to leave.
It is supposed to be a curse. I consider it a blessing.
A long sip of water certainly wasn’t the plan when I came here as a 22-year-old graduate of the University of Georgia’s journalism school. I was determined to write my address in pencil, learn my craft, then dash off for brighter lights and bigger headlines.
Instead of a stepping stone, Macon became my ball and chain. I found a sweet spot in a place I never expected, on my way to a life I never imagined.
It’s hard to believe that three children, two daughters-in-law, three grandchildren, four houses, two apartments, four churches, 15 cars, 11 schools (and four colleges), nine books, eight dogs, one flood, 34 trips to the voting booth and approximately 1,172 meals at Jeneane’s later, I’m still here.
There is something spiritual about the number 40. It’s everywhere in the Bible, from Noah to Moses to Jesus.
When I was growing up, Macon was just a green exit sign along the interstate on the way to Florida. My family would stop and eat at the S&S Cafeteria on Riverside. I once rode the Nancy Hanks with my mother from Terminal Station.
When I moved here, the only relative I had in Macon was a cousin, who welcomed me to the best of both worlds.
“Oh, you’re going to like it,” she said. “It’s big enough that you feel like you live in a city, yet it’s small enough that you can walk down the street and see people you know.”
I often wonder if I would have stayed had it not been for a couple of life-changing events. The road not taken, to wax poetic from Robert Frost.
After three years, I received a promotion at the newspaper. I could see the opportunity for professional growth. The following year, I met Delinda, who had lived in Macon since the fourth grade. She was an only child and close to her parents. So, I tell folks when I married her, I married Macon.
I admit this town isn’t for everyone. It’s a bit of an acquired taste. Some people don’t fit in. They either don’t try to fit in or they don’t through no fault of their own. (Macon folks can be set in their ways.) Others move here and stick like Velcro. You couldn’t drag them away. Still others leave and come back like a boomerang.
I appreciate that Macon is a city with a heartbeat and soul. There is rich history, magnificent architecture and breathtaking beauty, especially in the spring and fall. Have you been downtown lately? The place is hopping.
Location. Location. Location. It’s in the heart of the state, just 15 minutes from the geographic center of Georgia. You can leave Macon after breakfast and be at the beach or in the mountains by lunchtime. And there are times when can make it to Atlanta faster than you can make it through Atlanta.
I’m convinced there are more solid citizens and nurturing folks per square mile in Macon than anywhere in the universe. I remember a young lady from out of town who came to Wesleyan College for a summer camp. “Everyone is so friendly here,” she said. “Where do you hide all the mean people?”
I have made life-long friendships through work, play and worship. I have become kindred spirits with a cast of characters — cashiers, waiters, dentists, mechanics, preachers, coaches, accountants, teachers, secretaries, firefighters, musicians and plumbers.
Macon will be 200 years old in another five years, so I married an older woman. I’m happy we have grown old together. For better, for worse.
Ed Grisamore teaches journalism at Stratford Academy in Macon. His column appears on Sundays in The Telegraph.