Most children in middle school or high school are excited to grow up and move away from their hometowns. They dream about experiences college or starting a career might bring. When the future seems so bright with new possibilities on the horizon, it’s hard to remember the value of the place you were raised.
I was the same way. I couldn’t wait to move away from Highland County. At the time, it seemed so insignificant to my life. Now, that I have matured just a tiny bit, I’ve realized what this small, “insignificant” town really means.
My childhood growing up in Highland County, Virginia, was a simple one. It consisted of running barefoot through the backyard, following Granddad around the farm, and the occasional fishing trip.
We lived in Monterey. I spent Spring evenings riding my bicycle up to Guttshall’s Exxon to get my tires filled with air for rides up and down the back alleys. I spent Summer days knee-deep in the stream that ran through our backyard, catching minnows with my bare hands, and stacking rocks to make little pools with my sister, Suzanna.
In the winter, I sat many mornings with Suzanna waiting for school to be canceled, and I counted the days until Christmas when “Gaggy” (my grandmother) would create the finest of holiday feasts.
I couldn’t wait to get to “Mamaw’s” (my great-grandmother) house for pancakes and walks in the woods to see the fern patch. Or, spend an afternoon on her porch swing watching the world pass by.
Too many memories to count of the place I call home.
As it does, time marched on, and my life began to change. I began my adult life by graduating from high school, then college.
I started my career. I started a small family and moved to a big city in another state.
Now, I spend my days in a veterinary clinic talking to clients and handling their furry family members. I spend my afternoons in whichever park I end up in to stroll along walking paths with my eldest child, Snoopy (a 10-year-old poodle mix).
My nights are spent at home eating dinner with my boyfriend talking about the stresses of the day. During the weekend, I’m usually in my basement working on craft projects or making the four-hour commute home.
But, what never changes is the love I have for my hometown and my family. Living four hours from home makes me think about and appreciate the wonderful place where I grew up. I’m realizing the significance…
The saying, “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone,” has a deeper meaning for me now more than ever.
My life has changed in so many amazing ways, and for that, I am grateful. I have left my comfort zone to spread my wings and follow where life takes me. I have advanced myself in my career. I have a brand new apartment with a brand new life. Sounds exciting and adventurous, right?
Yes, recently moving to a new state, a new home, has been the bravest thing I’ve done so far in the 25 years I’ve been on this earth. But, it also makes me realize how lucky I was to grow up in a peaceful place like Highland County.
It heightens the joy I feel when I pull into Gaggy’s driveway on my visits home. Or, when I see Mamaw sitting on the porch swing.
More than ever, I cherish the time I spend sitting and talking with Mom on the front porch. I count down the minutes until Suzanna gets home from work, so we can catch up. I can’t wait to spend time with Dorothy, my aunt, in her new home. I could not imagine a better life than what I’ve experienced thus far.
This is what Highland County means to me. It means family.
It means beautiful views of the mountains in the distance.
It’s high school classmates you haven’t seen in years, but can easily talk to like no time has passed.
It’s hearing about an auction in Blue Grass and peaking through the window the night before to see what treasures are for sale.
Highland County is where it’s normal to see cattle on the high school lawn.
Highland is where you attend every single Highland County Fair since birth.
This is where our families belong and will never leave.
This place, this truly special place, is our home.
Update: Rebecca happily moved back home to Highland.