Archived Opinion

A small-town weekend packed with big meaning

A small-town weekend packed with big meaning

After three months of internal darkness and coping with grief, this past weekend offered some soothing reprieve. Over the years, I’ve realized I’m a person who desires to see the world but adores her small town. For me, a place like Waynesville is a perfect home base, a haven to recharge.

Despite my love of travel and adventure, I have no real yearning to ever live anywhere else. Maybe it’s from my nostalgic childhood in Weaverville or my attachment to the ethereal Blue Ridge Mountains, but it feels good to know this about myself and own it. 

This past weekend I was immersed in my community and local establishments, and Sunday night as I settled in to read before bed, I felt peaceful, relaxed. 

Friday evening, I helped with Girls Empowerment Night at Junaluska Elementary. The counselor asked me several months ago if I could help, and I agreed. On Friday afternoon, however, I felt a tiny bit of nagging regret that I had committed. Part of me just wanted to stay in the warm house and watch Christmas movies, but I’d made an obligation and I upheld it. This turned out to be a good choice.

As the mom of two boys, I’m rarely around little girls for long. As a female myself, I feel a natural attachment to women of all ages, so the minute I walked into to the JES cafeteria and heard giggles and talking galore, I could feel myself smile from the inside out. 

The goal of the evening was to empower girls in the upper elementary grades. The students were divided into groups and attended different sessions including yoga and internal wellness, manners and etiquette, self-esteem and confidence, and team building. Then there were a couple of fun sessions such as beauty shop and dance party. At the end of the night, we wrote positive attributes on the T-shirts and each girl walked across the stage to say her name and an empowering trait. 

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Such as, “My name is Susanna, and I’m unstoppable.” 

I was the group leader to 10 third-grade girls to whom I became very attached by the end of the night. It was an amazing evening, and I love that by living in a small town, I will see these sweet girls grow into young women then into functioning adults. I hope they remember the feelings they had last week. I plan to remind them in any way I can.  

On Saturday, my boys and I went to the open house at Mud Dabbers Pottery on Balsam. We’re friends with this sweet family and have been for a long time. I taught the Dodson’s older daughter when I was teaching at Waynesville Middle. She’s now a freshman in college. I served as the younger daughter’s confirmation mentor at Long’s Chapel. Further, both girls have and do swim with Smoky Mountain Aquatic Club (SMAC) and are rock stars in the eyes of my 7-year old who is in his first year on the swim team. Parents Brad and Judy are integral members of our community and wonderful friends to many. 

At Mud Dabbers’ open house, every guest walked away with a free handmade pottery cup which I thought was incredibly giving. The place was bustling with shoppers yet it was quiet and serene. Younger daughter Marna played Christmas music on the piano and guests were given apple cider and cookies. The boys and I stayed there for almost an hour buying a couple of items for ourselves as well as some Christmas gifts. It’s so gratifying spending money and know it’s going directly back into a family of our own. 

Saturday afternoon, we stopped at Barber’s Orchard Fruit Stand to buy apples before they ran out. We then attended a birthday party at Smoky Mountain Jumphouse. As kids played, parents caught up and talked about school events, holiday plans, and parenting. We’re lucky to have an establishment like this to wear our kids out and give us adults some time to chit chat. 

That evening, a good friend and I enjoyed a farm-to-table meal at Frog’s Leap Public House. We sat at the cozy bar and ordered some red wine, a local cheese plate, a variety of salads, and truffle fries. Those truffle fries are truly addictive. If you’ve never tried them, you’re missing out. Believe me. 

After dinner, we traipsed over to The Classic Wineseller for dessert and live music. Every time I visit that place, I can’t help but wonder if it was a speakeasy during Prohibition. It just has that feel. I can sense the fringed dresses, bobbed haircuts, and gin all around me. As we left, I mentioned this to our server, and she said there’s on old door in the place that connects to a tunnel running under Main St.  I’m sure that tunnel was used for some bootlegging back in the day. 

My 7-year old has taken violin lessons since he was 4 from Deborah Horn at Junaluska Music School. On Sunday, she had her students entertain the patrons at Log Cabin Frozen Treats in Maggie Valley. How fun it was to watch so many talented young musicians and to see my own child grow in his skill and confidence. 

Not one time this past weekend did I venture to Walmart or Best Buy or Lowe’s. I know sometimes these places are necessities and I’m thankful they provide jobs for many, but admittedly, I love going an entire weekend without having to enter any of them. 

This past year has changed me. I’m not yet sure how these deep changes will ultimately affect my life, but I know they’ve made me appreciate simple joys that are always at my fingertips. I’ve learned that when the anxiety comes, a day spent in my town with my people can bring perspective and healing. 

And for that, I’m so very thankful.  

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