Around here (and really everywhere in the South) folks want to know if you’re “local.” Did you grow up here? Are you from here? These are questions I’m frequently asked. Then, when I share, that in fact, I am not born and bred Habersham, the incredulous, “Then how did you get here?” is next.
Originally printed in the The Northeast Georgian on October 4, 2013.
The short answer is simple. My husband took a job in 2005 with Habersham Bank. So we moved from Adairsville, where we’d landed after four years of college in nearby Rome, to here. I started teaching, we had more babies, and this became home.
But the long answer is so much more. The complex, not quite so simple answer, is this is where I knew I belonged. That feeling of contentment among these hills and streams was fostered in my childhood and blossomed into reality as a young adult.
I grew up just a few miles down highway 17 in Elberton, but my childhood is filled with memories of these mountains. We camped at Andrew’s Cove and hiked Brasstown Bald and my father and grandfather had a secret camping spot called “The Walnut Tree” that women and girls were admitted to by invitation only. I spent summers in the valley between Helen and Hiawassee and tubed the Chattahoochee in an old tractor tire that was better than any pink plastic tube.
Later as a college student, I served two summers with Georgia Mountain ResortMinistries in Helen and worked part-time at Unicoi State Park. My paying job was to lead hikes and make crafts and welcome campers. But it was so much more than that; my job was to make this local attraction feel like home to anyone. My job was to help others see the majesty in these mountains and trails and waterfalls. My job was to live like a local and love this place like it was my home.
So when I came back with my own family, I easily felt I belonged among these landmarks and in this location. But it’s taken me a little while to own that word for myself.
Lately, I’ve been exploring the idea of what it means to “live local” in anticipation of a series I’m writing on my blog this fall. What does that really mean after all? Is being local more than just putting my money where my mouth is? Is it more than just enjoying the parks and playgrounds and libraries that are perks of my local tax dollars? I think so. I think when I choose to live local, it means I’m embracing where I live and proudly calling it home.
So when people ask me if I’m local, I guess the true answer is yes. My heart has always been most at home here among the history and geography of a place that is not my birthright. Perhaps that’s because this is the home that’s chosen me.
Join me tomorrow for an honest reflection on what I’ve learned this month about embracing my local and making a difference in this place, for such a time as this.
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