This morning I was sitting on the back patio drinking my coffee. Leaves seemed to fill every square inch of the ancient tree that had taken up residency on this spot of land long before our house was ever built. That tree is mammoth with its thick trunk towering higher than our house, its branches reaching like strong, protective arms across the yard and up over the roof. Birds were playing in the grass below, taking solitude in the cool breeze of the shade.
Off in the distance I could hear the faint sound of a train rumbling by. Being close enough to hear it is one of my favorite things about this house because it reminds of sleepovers at Grandma Sacrey’s house when I was a little girl. I would stay in the little corner room upstairs that belonged to my mother, and when the weather was agreeable, all of the windows would be open at night. The window on the far side of the house faced the side where the train would come by around bedtime, and its sound would flood the room so fully that I could close my eyes and imagine myself riding in one of the cars. I loved falling asleep to the sound of going somewhere while remaining perfectly still. That sound is one of the many things I will miss about living here.
Next week our house goes up for sale. We’re moving from the city we have called home for the past eight years; it’s a place where I have made wonderful friends while collecting memories which have compounded into another chapter in my life for which I am truly grateful.
When we first moved to Hendersonville, I was that young and awkward mom of two who was stuck helplessly between becoming a sophisticated woman and the college grunge days of my youth. Making friends was no walk in the park. Back then I was apt to categorize people by the things I thought were indicative of ‘cool’ at the time, giving things like a pair of Converse sneakers the deciding power to choose the people I perceived to be the most relatable to me.
Not surprisingly, in a sea of flats and flip flops, or country western and knee high zip-up boots, I was clueless as to where to even begin meeting people. So, for a while, I flew solo with my mind staying busy working on the house and taking care of the girls.
My oldest daughter was only four-years-old when we moved to Hendersonville, but she kept me entertained. She had the vocabulary and enthusiasm of a passionate, fast-talking micro-professor, delivering her preschool philosophy with a method equivalent to a stampede of elephants exploding through the room. Not surprisingly, she consumed A LOT of my time while our middle daughter – the then baby of the family – sat by idly in the shadows of her older sister who merely ranked her in birth order by two years, a few months, and a couple of days.
Naturally, our middle daughter would become a keen observer and a dreamer, the child with whom I could most closely relate. Her quiet disposition was a breath of fresh air with her captivating smile and rolls of laughter capable of consuming the entire room.
Without our oldest’s constant conversation and our youngest’s ability to lighten the day, my ability to thrive as a new mom in Hendersonville without copious amounts of adult conversation wouldn’t have lasted as long as it did.
It was six months before the stress of moving started to give way to daily routine, at which point the mundanities of life started to feed savagely on my soul. Wiping snotty noses and chasing my little humans around the backyard became mind numbing, and the excitement over my weekly Wednesday morning visits from the Jehovah Witnesses waned.
I turned to the Executive, talking to him incessantly when he returned home from work about potty training, accidentally mowing over my car keys in the front lawn, or about how I wanted to be a writer some day. He would listen, moving about the kitchen preparing his plate and responding with the occasional “uh-uh” to let me know he was still listening. I think he knew as well as I did that I needed to get out of the house and into the open air of adult companionship as soon as possible before we all lost our minds.
I joined a Mommy Club at the local Catholic church,…
…went to meet-ups,…
…and joined the local YMCA.
Everyone in the house was grateful.
I’m not sure how many people can claim this to be true, but if I’m being completely honest, the Sumner County YMCA saved my life. Attending classes there jump started my social connections that would later extend across Hendersonville among all different kinds of people from all walks of life. After a few months, I connected with other runners in cycling classes, and eventually branched out my Tree of Life to extend over to Drakes Creek Park where I met up with the local running club amongst a diverse group of men and women who preceded me in life, parenting, and being a grown up in general.
With the Hendersonville Running Club I took to the side streets every Saturday morning to embark on a 14 mile journey famed “The Boomer Route” after a fellow club member mapped it out one day. It’s a course where water is scarce, but the hills are plentiful and daunting. Every week we would meet at the same time with a similar goal in mind, and during the process we shared stories about everything. There’s a common saying amongst runners:
“What happens on the road, stays on the road.”
We lived by that oath religiously.
As with any long run amongst a group, the dynamic was always changing; time would find me running by myself searching for clarity, or at other times alongside a cherished friend who would offer nuggets of wisdom and advice through sharing their philosophies about life’s commonalities. They taught me about being a loyal friend, accepting what has been, focusing on progress toward the future, never giving up, and letting go of toxic people and things that stand in the way.
My favorite quote came from an amazing woman and one of my favorite people I met during my HRC running days. She has beautiful skin the color of milk chocolate and her eyes shine out like stars brilliantly adorning the night sky. Her laughter was joyful and expressive, and her sayings were always the best. I still carry them with me and recite them years later as a truth to strive for and to live by.
“You know you’ve reached your sweet spot in life
when you learn how to break your give a damn.”
There were other people, too; they were the ones on the periphery who I came across and befriended, holding them dear to my heart as loyal and trustworthy friends. These were the people who didn’t run around within social groups because they refused to conform to some else’s expectations. Instead they followed their own heart to the beat of their own drum, and, because of it, I found their personality fascinating and their company intoxicating. With them I could talk about things that I wouldn’t dare tell anyone else, and in return they would offer me profound words and an example to live by. Collectively, they would teach me how to give up on trying to be the best at everything and to settle for being good enough at all of the right things, such as…
…raising my children,
…giving and receiving love graciously,
…and living life purposefully.
As we pack our entire lives into a growing stack of cardboard boxes in various shapes and sizes, the memories of living in Hendersonville keep flooding back to me through medals from races, photographs, and the kids’ playthings that no longer captivate their interests. While there is a sense of loss which oftentimes pulls at my heartstrings as I caress an embroidered hand towel given to me by one of my most cherished friends, or as I pack into a Goodwill box baby toys and outgrown clothing, I am in awe by how much eight years can contain and how much a person can change.
There are the most outwardly obvious changes I have experienced during my time in Hendersonville, like the birth of a third child who is now helping me with sticky fingers and muddy rain boots to tape closed boxes nearly as big as she. But there are also the numerous intangible things that were born in hidden places tucked away inside of my heart, mind, and within my soul. They are the kinds of things which seeped deep inside of me when I gave up control enough to let them, and when I did, they took me from a heavily-guarded and self-centered human-being to someone who seeks to exude the kind of love it takes to break down preconceived notions about others, thus allowing me to learn to appreciate the essence found in differences and understanding that the world doesn’t revolve around my ideals.
Even now, a year down the road after my running days had succumbed to repeated injury, I’m still breathing in the sweet essence of the kinds of people found in Hendersonville, Tennessee.
Six months ago I stepped out of my worn out Newtons and barefooted onto a rectangular mat in a hot yoga room where I witnessed the growth of yet another branch extending from my Tree of Life. The women I have met through my practice have taught me numerous, invaluable things I will carry with me for a lifetime. Simply by being in the midst of their glow, I have been able to experience the gentleness with which they approach world around them, both externally and within their own souls. They have taught me the importance of taking care of myself, loving others thoroughly, honing in on the passions God has given me, and doing so while trying to live life a little more beautifully each and every day.
No matter what our individual stories looks like,
we all agree that life goes by rather quickly.
We all realize these great truths, yet it’s funny how our commonalities move along different cultural lines and time frames so that life looks differently for every human being. From the people in Hendersonville who are so different than me, I have learned that in order to make a place feel like home, you have to realize that perspective has the power to change the landscape of everything. I can honestly say that no other chapter in my book of life has brought me as much personal growth toward being a better person than the pages found in the Hendersonville Diaries.
As a writer, I tend to live my life in chapters, sticking a bookmark in every once in a while to stop and give myself time to reflect on the connections between events, experiences, and the people I have met along the way. I carry bits and pieces of them inside of me, allowing the most valuable and cherished things to rewire my thinking, and thus my approach to life and the world around me. Considering that, the people of Hendersonville have made me into a better person than I was when I moved here eight years ago, and for that I am grateful.
There is something wonderful to be said about this town.
Hendersonville is a place where the first question anyone will ask you is, “Where do you go to church?” And if you answer “no” they will invite you to join them on Sunday.
It’s a place where people love Jesus Christ and they wear his name like a badge across bumperstickers, t-shirts, and embedded in colorful tattoos. They will talk about Him fervently, as though He is the most incredible human being who has ever lived, and, considering that, they feel that everyone should know His story.
Although I am a Catholic, and being Catholic in Hendersonville is like being inflicted with the plague, I give a lot of credit to my love of this town to the overwhelmingly large population of bible-thumping Jesus lovers who have graciously shared their love of Christ with me.
Not everyone delivered their opinions so humbly, but many did with intelligent conversations over coffee at the Starbucks on Main; those people displayed the kind of respect and grace truly indicative of a soul filled by the spirit of God. For those particular people – for their shared love and wisdom – I am especially thankful. Because of their ability to share so freely their honest truths, I learned the importance of walking through life without blinders on. I learned from them to trust God to lead the way while putting forth the hard work it takes to be the woman He has created me to be; to be a writer, but to also allow myself to feel the love of being a mother and a friend, so that the stories I write come alive like brilliant, colorful pictures coming together in words upon pages.
As we move on from this town, we move forward into a year which will bring with it more work toward rediscovering marriage and gluing together the pieces of our little family. While I will miss my friends and the town of Hendersonville so deeply, I know it’s time to close in the circle a little bit tighter, filling in the areas of our foundation where holes have formed as giant as the sand worms that had been burrowing underneath, knocking out the mortar and crumbling the weakest bricks.
As a writer, it is my time to start pulling the memories out into a collection of stories that tell about all kinds of things, like hope and faith and love; learning from others; trusting instincts; trusting God; loving others who don’t believe in the same God; loving my children even when I don’t like them so much; accepting myself where I am; accepting growth; accepting change; looking inward to matters of the heart and starting there…always; accepting the hardships of marriage with grace and seeing the raw beauty there despite how much doing so can cause pain; being a better daughter and better friend; loving my brothers and sisters both biologically and in Christ, as well as those across different faiths; cherishing moments that come by so quickly; realizing how altering perspective has the power to transform the way I look at people and life and all of our wonderful commonalities.
My Hendersonville Diaries have come together like the Big Bang. There was an explosion of amazing, God-loving people who brought us meals when we were sick and loved us like family. There are all of the wonderful places we treated like secret clubhouses as my girls and I trekked through the trails and fields of the arboretum and other places around Old Hickory Lake.
And from all of these places and experiences and the people I have come across in this awesome little town, a tiny seed was formed, and bursting from its seams comes a beautiful catalog of cherished memories that I will carry with me for a lifetime.