Reflections from a Southern Yankee: Home Sweet Home

Almost heaven

West Virginia 

Blue Ridge Mountains

Shenandoah River

~ John Denver

I had been on the hour and a half ride up Interstate 81 to the northernmost part of the Shenandoah Valley plenty of other times. But, this time was different. This time involved a moving truck. My 6th grade year had ended, and I bid farewell to the friends I had made the previous six years. As much as I didn’t want to leave my house in the woods, the bike trails I had ventured on for so many hours of my life, or my best friend, Zane, I knew the move was essential for the family. Up until this point, my adoptive father was only able to come home from Washington, DC on weekends. Now, we were heading to a new home in a small town called Berryville, Virginia so that my father could be with us every evening. That was a good thing. There were other good things, as well. We would be less than an hour from the nation’s capital which meant more trips to some of my favorite places – the Air and Space Museum, the Smithsonian and the National Zoo just to name a few. 

As we headed north, the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains on our right and the Alleghenies on our left, we looked forward to a new chapter of life. Of course, there was sadness in our hearts, but there was also hope and even a little excitement. I would be starting 7th grade in a new school – a school that happened to be a walk through a neighboring apple orchard. I’ll never forget the warm spring days when I actually walked a little slower than usual – strolling through endless trees that looked like giant puffballs of white and pink cotton candy is something that even a teenage boy can appreciate.

The town of Berryville is a very short distance to “wild wonderful West Virginia.” Over the years, one of our favorite places to visit became the town of Harper’s Ferry. It never got old going to the location where John Brown became famous and where the scenic Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers converged amongst the surrounding mountains.

Speaking of the Shenandoah River, our new home was a quick 10 minute drive from it. My father loaded my younger siblings and myself into the van, and we headed down to the river to give my mom a little peace and quiet. There, on warm days, we waded into the river through the gentle rapids, skipping stones or catching crayfish and salamanders. Other times, I would cast a line in and be delighted by the tug at the end of it as I hooked a small mouth bass.

Times were good there, and even though I still missed my old home and ways of life there, I became accustomed to and fond of my new life.

Every year, in a small neighboring town called White Post, there was a celebration called “White Post Days.” It was truly the type of event one would refer to as “a slice of Americana.” Old fashioned automobiles, parades, delicious foods, music and just a general sense of community and love abounded there. When the county we lived in celebrated its 150th anniversary, both my mother and I were in the play that retold the county’s history. It was my first acting experience. A couple years later, I was best supporting actor in my junior class play – not bad if I do say so myself.

Through the years, I made friends at school, joined Boy Scouts, ran cross country and attended church. Berryville was becoming more than just the town we moved to so my father could be home every night. It now held a special place in our hearts. Plus, we were still in the Shenandoah Valley, so it really wasn’t much different from where we had left.

Like all good things, our time and experiences in our little town of Berryville came to an end. The job that we had moved there for also became the job that would cause us to leave. The accident that almost took my father’s legs and his life would propel us southward back down the Shenandoah Valley to the farm that we had waited decades to live on. Again, I said goodbye to the people I grew to know and love and prepared myself to start my senior year in a new high school. But this time, it was in the same area we had to move from originally, so it really wasn’t a big deal.

With a few more additions to the family than we had when we moved to Berryville, we packed our things and once again hopped on I-81 South – this time with the Blue Ridge on our left and the Alleghenies on our right.

I was only able to enjoy one full year of living on the farm, but it was a year that I will always cherish. 

They say home is where the heart is. Even though I’ve lived in North Carolina for the past 17 years, my heart will forever be a part of the places that I lived in the past. The 27 years worth of memories of gently rolling hills, the lazy Shenandoah river meandering through those hills and the sight of those beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains off in the distance will always be what I consider my home sweet home.  

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