Last weekend, I went to spend some much-needed time with faraway friends in Colorado. It was delightful, to be sure, and re-entering the South with its 90-degree temperatures and 100 percent humidity was a daunting task. The Midwest is a beautiful part of our country, and the plains and the mountains are breathtaking, each for different reasons. My friend lives near Boulder, so we spent a lot of time browsing quirky shops, and countless restaurants tempted us from every corner. The picturesque setting has the potential to be jealousy-inducing.
Until I come home, and I see rolling hills and oak trees and horse pastures and beaches just a couple of hours from my front door. I look around, and the South I see isn't something I'm settling for, it's something I've chosen. There is something about the South, isn't there? We get a bad rap, I think, and some of it is deserved. But then there's that other part, the part with mason jars and fresh-squeezed lemonade and please and thank you and yes ma'am and fried chicken.
My friends, I've mentioned, are scattered all over the country. And my joke for the past year has been about them and their grand adventures and their callings in cities universally acknowledged to be wonderful. They received Boulder and Chicago and Nashville and Jacksonville and Atlanta, and we got Thomasville. And we joke and we laugh, but enough is enough.
Thomasville is the choice we made, and we are living it, happily. I came back from Boulder, and my hair is frizzy and the sweat won't stop dripping and my makeup won't stop melting, but there are fish and grits at Jonah's, and my little house sits right next to an elementary school where I hear happy screams and squeals at lunchtime. Occasionally, if I'm lucky, I feel the hint of a fall breeze, and I know soon, in just a month or two, I'll be able to walk to work again, and I'll pass by churches and a coffee shop and restaurants and stores -- these people I call my coworkers and slowly, my friends. I'll step on the bricks, and I'll feel more and more like this is home.
I've been back in Thomasville for a week, and I'm seeing it with fresh eyes. Every morning, I open the door to a dream come true. Kathleen Kelly whispers to me in the corner, telling me I'm doing it. I'm being brave and living a grand adventure; mine just happens to be in a small Southern town. And I'm okay with it now, more than I was a year ago, more than I was a few months ago. I think we have to own our choices and our decisions, and I am owning mine.
We chose Thomasville and The Bookshelf. And you could travel the whole country -- I almost feel like I have -- and never quite find what we've found here. A thriving arts community. A quirky downtown theatre. A bookstore filled to the brim with titles and gifts hand-selected by a thoughtful, caring staff. Air that smells suspiciously like freshly baked bread (or burnt coffee beans, depending on where you're standing).
Here, Jordan and I wave at our neighbors, and I call my customers by name. I spend my day among books and the people who love them, people who choose to shop here when they could shop anywhere.
It's all a little bit magical, isn't it?
Here is the truth I am learning, as I claim Thomasville as my own. Going away is good for the soul. But so is coming home.
See you in the shop,