Moms

Soshally Awkward: Charlotte is home

Win or lose, Sosha and Conley are Panthers fans.
Win or lose, Sosha and Conley are Panthers fans.

In May, I will have lived in Charlotte for 15 years. That is more than twice as long as I lived in any other one place. I came to Charlotte to run away from an Appalachian past filled with shame and lies.

I didn’t identify with my adopted hometown for years. I joked that it was bland. Safe. Vanilla. I often referred to it as “City.” I didn’t dislike Charlotte. I didn’t like Charlotte. I was indifferent. It was just where I lived. Despite my desire to runaway from my past, I was proudly, defiantly from West Virginia. It was home.

Then I had my daughter, Conley, and I realized that Charlotte is where she was born and where she will be raised. It is her home. It is where she will always be “from.” That filled me with some kind of weird, hormonal pride.

So in 2009, the year Conley was born, I decided that I was going to embrace Charlotte. After all, Charlotte is where I became a wife and mother. Charlotte is where I met some of my very best friends, people who supported and encouraged me when I first started sharing the past from which I was once so eager to distance myself. In the process of embracing Charlotte, I also fell in love with it.

Charlotte became home.

In the past few months, I have watched myself and so many others fall in love with our talented, fun-loving, hard-working home team - the Carolina Panthers. I am sure that some will argue that makes us fair weather fans. There is no denying that many of us have not been draped in black and blue since 1995 when the Panthers were founded. It can also be said that many of us probably couldn’t name more than three players on the team had they not electrified the NFL with their fun, brash run to the Super Bowl. The point can be made that if the Panthers get off to a slow start next year that the stadium will be half empty again.

They’re valid points.

Valid but wrong.

The 2015-2016 Panthers were special. They made me, someone who has never cared about the NFL, care - a lot. They attracted attention, good and bad, outside of the Carolinas,validating our little pocket of the world. This year’s team was the proverbial lightning rod. This team was the turning point. They not only electrified Charlotte, but they also gave a city of transplants a sense of home.

I think what they did goes well beyond their work at Bank of America Stadium. Sure, the Panthers were special on the field, but so many of them were incredible off the field too. They gave back to Charlotte. They inspired the citizens of Charlotte, to use our voices and our skills to help those less fortunate. The Panthers made us care about them, but they made us care about so much more too.

The outcome of Super Bowl 50 was heartbreaking. It seemed like our year, our destiny. Many will complain that a 26 year old with the weight of fans and critics alike riding on his well sculpted shoulders, not only didn’t play well, but didn’t act like they believe he should have…like they know they would have had they been on that stage, under those same white hot lights. Others will point out that we shouldn’t care because these men make more money in a season than most of us will in a lifetime.

They’re valid points.

Valid but wrong.

The Panthers won’t be coming back to ticker tape and marching bands, but they will be coming home.

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