A Tale of Two Cities


On June 18, 1989, my family drove our moving van across the Tennessee state line. I was nine years old and had lived in Miami all my life, the oldest child of two other Florida natives. Previously, they had only left the Sunshine State for a two-year Coast Guard stint, during which I was born. We had always lived the Salt Life: beach every weekend, boating, snorkeling, fishing. Mangoes and avocados from trees in our front yard. Brief thunderstorms every afternoon. School trips to the Everglades and the Seaquarium. But Miami wasn’t the best place to raise a family anymore, and my dad got a job offer in Memphis that would provide a much better work/life balance. So we left it all behind to experience brand-new things like BBQ Fest, and Southern accents so thick you could barely understand them, and winter.

When people ask me if I grew up in Memphis, I say, “Pretty much.” During my youth, though, I wouldn’t even claim it. Years passed, and I still identified as a child of the tropics. My family continued to disparage a lot of things about Memphis. But Memphis sank into my bones. College rolled around, and I stayed. I graduated, and stayed. (My siblings didn’t.) One summer night in my mid-20s, landing on a return flight from Miami, it hit me that I was so glad to be home. It was the equivalent of suddenly realizing you’re in love with someone you’ve been friends with for years, and wondering how you missed it. I understood then that even though Florida is in my blood and will be till the day I die, Memphis is too. I choose Memphis every day. Shinier, prettier, sexier cities don’t tempt me like they used to, because I don’t belong somewhere like that. I want to be a part of the mess and the grit and the grind.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m crazy not to move back to Florida now, find a sunkissed man with a boat, and raise a family of my own in the Salt Life. I’m not saying I’ll never go. But I don’t need a person to keep me here. Memphis itself is keeping me here. It’s not through with me yet, and I’m not sorry.

Happy 25th anniversary, Memphis. Here’s to many more. xoxo

About Brenda W.

Christian. Memphian. Reader. Writer. True blue Tiger fan. Lover of shoes, the ocean, adventure, and McAlister's iced tea. View all posts by Brenda W. →
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6 Responses to A Tale of Two Cities

  1. Laura says:

    This was lovely to read! :) I can count on one hand the times that I’ve been to an ocean, so the Salt Life is completely foreign to me. I like reading about it. I would love to visit both cities someday!

    I moved when I was 10 years old (not to a different state, but at least to a different county), so I have a similar problem answering questions like, “Where are you from?” or “Where did you grow up?” Childhood was in a small town out in the country. Adolescence was in a suburb with overcrowded schools. I grew up in both places. It depends on the situation and my mood as to which one I claim.

  2. Tomboy B. says:

    You know I fully support any future move to Florida, especially to Jacksonville (which I think, from your many descriptions, is actually quite a lot like Memphis), but I completely understand your feelings toward Memphis. I think it’s awesome. It’s how I feel about Jacksonville, even though I didn’t get here till I was 19. This *is* my home, and people better watch how they talk about it around me. :)

  3. Tessa says:

    This was really fun to read. I’m glad you like Memphis so much, and feel so at home here! That is a special gift to find a place in your heart like that for a city :-)

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