Friday, April 25, 2014 · 12:58 a.m.
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Christmastime at Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport equals faux Northern Lights and glitter trees. (Photo: Maggie Behringer)

Disclaimer: This column, if not read in its entirety, could be misinterpreted as a complaint from an unappreciative brat.

I admit this first so we get it out of the way, and you, the reader, can understand that I understand how ridiculous it is to spend any amount of time thinking about the pros and cons of going to Germany for Christmas.

The full story is this: My mother and I are traveling to a picturesque village on a river, nestled in the woods outside-ish Frankfurt for the holiday. She will make her international kirtan debut (a Hindu call-and-response musical tradition that involves chanting the name of God in Sanskrit), and I am tagging along for the ride.

My mother is kind of a big deal. I diligently brush her shoulder off every day, either in person or by phone, email or text.

We will be in Europe for six days. She plays her music. I read and write. Everyone enjoys the comfort of a small, quiet resort village in quaint Christmastime Germany.

Right about now, you, dear reader, are likely wondering, "Really?! You want me to read a whole article detailing your cute mother-daughter trip to Europe? And what? You’re going to whine about it, too? Give me a break."

Please, remember the disclaimer.

I was game for this escapade from the jump. I recognize the specialness of this adventure, the opportunity to be present at this amazing moment in my mother’s life, the chance to spend six days eating German chocolate and drinking German beer, and all on my mother’s dime. Thank you, poor grad student status!

Yet, in the weeks before I flew out of the Pittsburgh airport, I noticed the absence of tremendous anticipation. I hesitated when anyone asked me how excited I was. I didn’t even pack until an hour before I left my apartment.

The guilt began to kick in instantly. I absolutely spent days stressing about why I had morphed into an ungrateful, spoiled terror who would not be at her wits' end with joy to get to go to Germany for Christmas.

I’ll spare you the rest of the self-upbraiding sessions and share the gem of a lesson I finally winkled out of myself.

I won’t be at home in Chattanooga for the holiday, and further, shudder of all shudders, I don’t have a home in Chattanooga anymore.

Pathetic, right? Well, maybe not. Hear me out.

My parents are divorced. My mother lives in Atlanta. My father lives in Chattanooga, but not in the house I grew up in (ah, the splitting up of property in divorce proceedings). As Charlie, Pat the Cat and I are now residents of West Virginia, we no longer have an apartment in Chattanooga.

There have been past Christmases when I wasn’t in the Scenic City. We camped out in grandparents’ houses or visited other family. My parents and child Maggie never constructed a Christmas tradition that required us to be in town.

And yes, moms of the world, if I, a 28-year-old woman, was married and had kids by now, we would all be together stateside, enjoying the mild Southern weather and grits at Waffle House. My personal scolding train definitely made a momentary stop at the guilty-single-lady station.

The truth, however, is that this will be the first year in my adult life that I will not spend any time around the holidays in Chattanooga.

More specifically, it will be the first time that I will not be around since 2010, when I realized how much I loved Chattanooga; how much I, the girl who had been so sure she would never return to Chattanooga, wanted to build a life in the city where I grew up.

Here it is, the last disclaimer for this column: This is, ultimately, my Christmastime ode to the Scenic City.

I will miss the sunrise and sunset colors on the water under the bridges downtown. I will miss the holiday lights on Market and Broad streets. I will miss late-night meals with high school friends at the Waffle House on Dayton Boulevard.

I will miss the windows at the EPB Building. I will miss the seeming bird’s-eye view from the Ridge Cut. I will miss the lights mapping out almost the entire metro area, as seen from East Brow Road on Signal Mountain. I will miss the extra-crazy madness at Hamilton Place Mall and the Signal Mountain Boulevard Walmart.

I will miss taking Charlie on early-morning walks at the golf course in Riverview. I will miss $1 Natty Light bottles at Mike’s Hole in the Wall. I might even miss the extra traffic on I-24 and the endless talk about the construction around Manufacturers Road.

I know I will have an amazing Christmas. My mother and I will have a blast. The holiday is about being with family and loved ones, and I am lucky enough to be doing just that.

But sometimes, it’s also about being in the exact place you have finally recognized you love.

Merry Christmas, Chattanooga.

Because Charlie Barley Behringer could not simply disappear from Nooga.com, Mountain to Mountain will follow her and her mother's adventures, dispatch-style, in Morgantown as they tackle graduate school, first-year teaching and living in West by-God Virginia. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.

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