Leaving Atlanta

Jeanne Bonner  with her son, Leo, 5, at a spot along the Atlanta Beltline.

Credit: Bob Andres

Credit: Bob Andres

Jeanne Bonner with her son, Leo, 5, at a spot along the Atlanta Beltline.

A reluctant Atlanta transplant says goodbye to a city that became home

“It’s all downhill from here,” my father said.

It was the summer of 1998, and I was sitting in my apartment, not far from the Piazza Santa Croce in Florence, calling my parents in New York to announce I would soon be returning to the States – something my dad had been urging me to do.

Had he really predicted that my life post-Florence would never measure up to this moment? I don’t remember how I replied. I only remember looking around my flat and feeling the push and pull of my two worlds as I watched my neighbor’s laundry flutter over our narrow, cobblestone street.

I’d wound up in Florence because I was an Italian major in college. Lured by the magic of a semester abroad in the Tuscan city of Siena, I was determined to go back and live in Italy. So I took off for the city of Dante right after graduation, living in Florence for several years.

But then I met an American in Italy — a fellow New York stater — and we fell in love. So after a few weeks at home on Long Island with my parents, I flew to Atlanta to join him for his new Stateside work assignment.

Where do you go when you leave the birthplace of the Italian renaissance? Unless it’s New York or Paris or heaven, you’re in a pickle. No place in Atlanta could match my final apartment in Florence, which had been at the top of a medieval tower with a nearly 360-degree view of the city.

But I learned something about myself during that grieving period. To paraphrase the Italian novelist Antonio Tabucchi, we become fused with the places we inhabit. Somehow, often unbeknownst to us, we carry those places around with us. We don’t ever truly leave them because they don’t ever truly leave us.

His idea resonates especially now because this month, I’ll finish packing up a literary hoarder’s worth of books, articles and mementos from my house in Grant Park and I’ll move to Connecticut to be closer to family. And once that’s done, most likely I’ll never return to Atlanta to live.

Click below to read more about how Bonner’s relationship with Atlanta changed through the years.