This past Sunday I saw the film Lady Bird. After several people approaching me to proclaim that I am “exactly like the main character,” I decided it was crucial to unearth my own truth on this comparison. Before seeing the film, I watched an extensive amount of interviews with Greta Gerwig (producer) and Saoirse Ronan (leading actress). Let’s just say by the time I actually got into the theater, I was fully prepared for what would unfold on the big screen.
I asked my mom to come with me to the movie. Partly because I’m home on break, while all my friends are still at school, but more so because the plot line revolves around a mother and her daughter. From watching the trailer, it seemed like their relationship mirrored that of my mom and me. But the plot mirrored more aspects of my life than just a maternal relationship. For those who haven’t seen the film, it follows the main character-- Christine “Lady Bird”-- through her senior year in high school as she prepares to go to college. As promised by many, I did see myself in “Lady Bird”-- her desire to escape the confines of her home town, her dream to attend a school she couldn’t afford, her rebellion yet secret desire to fit in, and her final appreciation for the home she spent so long loathing.
Like “Lady Bird” spent her life devoted to her hatred for her hometown of Sacramento, I did the same with Birmingham. In the last scene, she describes how it felt the first time she drove through her hometown: the curving roads, the trees, the comfort. Without knowing it, she loved Sacramento in the same way I love Birmingham. I left the theater in tears, clutching my mom and whispering words I say all too little: “thank you.” Thank you not only to my parents for all they’ve sacrificed for me, but thank you to Birmingham for making me the person that I am today. I would be nothing without you. So in that spirit, here is my ode to Birmingham because this city really is magic.
I spent a lot of time deciding to hate the place I now call home. Birmingham, our story is one of love and loathing. We grew into each other; we grew up together. At ten years old I met you, innocent and afraid. We both abided by the laws of the city that contained us; no questions asked. But as I reached adolescence, you followed close behind. How we both desired to be desired by places and people we could never be, so we spent all our time pretending… Growing still, we grew together into angsty teens. In unison, we’d scream, “I hate the world! I hate this place! Nothing will ever change.” We thought the solution to the problem was simply to leave. Leave this place to rest, the way it’s been for centuries. The world outside is bigger and better, these people could never see. High School found us both in isolation, still dreaming of the outside world and wishing the future was present. We slaved for change, most days feeling like it’d never come. There were moments of admitting defeat. And one summer we parted. The separation drew perspective on who we were individually. I alone refused to believe you could ever be where I belong, but through words and words I discovered home is not where I reside. It is experience, it is relationships, it is love. And here, I loved.
So here’s a last note. I spent half a life telling myself that you were not my home. I spent more time proclaiming that I had no home at all. Last year when I told this to my parents, my mom said, “when you drive into Birmingham after time spent away, you’ll feel a sense of comfort and think ‘ahhh, I’m home’” I forgot about this until two weeks ago, driving down Stone River Road after six and half hours in the car from Savannah. I stared at the damp amber leaves, felt the slick, curved roads under my tires, listened to the stereo voices singing songs composed of nostalgia.
Birmingham, I'm home.