We’ve spent the past couple of days in the Atlanta area and today we had the chance to visit Stone Mountain, where we previously lived. It was surreal to drive down Main Street, turn on West Mountain Street and come to the corner where The Village Inn is. The building looked good. The sign we had made was still in very good condition. The front porch looked unloved and the little strand of garland across the second floor veranda made it look almost naked when I remembered the holiday decorating we used to lovingly put up each year. Even after five years, my heart still felt pulled towards that building. I can’t explain it. I guess that if it is possible for a person to truly love and have a fondness for a structure, I love that house. I suppose I always will.
I drove past our old home, just next door. Its blue siding and white trim have been replaced with grey paint and red shutters. The front lawn has dramatically reduced in size, invaded by large leland cypress trees, leaving the front of the house barely visible from the road. It looks nothing like when we lived there – and I found it interesting that I really felt no emotional response to seeing it.
I walked with a dear friend of mine (who still lives in the area) down Main Street, visiting the very few merchants who remain. When we were there, nearly every storefront was full. The village merchants would fastidiously paint the sidewalk every couple of years, in a quirky pattern meant to resemble red bricks. The awnings would be stretched with white lights and when you walked beneath them during “Candlelight Shopping” around the holidays, there was magic in the air. The awning isn’t the only thing that has disappeared (the Downtown Development Authority deemed it had to go, as it was not “original” to the buildings.) Of the dozens of shops that we knew and loved, only two remain – and both of those are closing down in the coming weeks.
We enjoyed dinner at Mama Mia’s and the salad, bread, and baked ziti were just as I remember – although the owner, Larry, has since sold and moved on due to health reasons. (I had suspected as much, as his Israeli flag that he put out annually for Hannukah has been replaced with Christmas decorations.)
After dinner, I took Alyssa to Stone Mountain Park, a place that I frequented when we lived in Stone Mountain Village. As in previous years, the park was hosting “An Old Fashioned Christmas”. It was late and I had just planned to drive around and show Alyssa some of the holiday lights. When I took her down to where the new little “town” is, I realized that the Christmas lazer show was going, so I quickly drove her to a spot that I knew would provide us easy access to the lazer show lawn. We watched that for a while, then stopped in the town for a souviner spoon, a flashing LED necklace for Alyssa, and some fudge for me (shhh, don’t tell!) They had every building and every tree wrapped in various colors of lights and as I looked around, the real reason that Stone Mountain Village has withered up and virtually disappeared became apparent. Stone Mountain Park built a recreation of an historic village, full of arts and crafts and gift shops – and the REAL historic village, located less than a mile away – was forgotten by tourists and simply died. It will be a real shame if it is lost forever.
After driving by and showing Alyssa some of the old attractions that have been there forever (the skylift, covered bridge, grist mill, antebellum plantation, marina, carillon, and others – all closed due to the hour/season), we drove around the loop behind the mountain. I was blessed with a view I’ve not seen in Stone Mountain Park before – two deer crossing the road in front of my van. I thought of all the unique little spots I’ve enjoyed picnicking, quiet time, and walks and my heart was warm with what a special spot God created so very near to downtown Atlanta. I smiled remembering my time there and was glad to see that while much has changed, a whole lot has remained the same – for now.
I promised we’d come back in the Spring and spend some time there.