My friend in North Carolina did not know we had even left Santa Rosa Beach and had sent me a text warning us to stay out of the water at the beach, which we haven’t gone in much since the 2010 oil spill anyway. This was while we were in transit to the hotel to stay after we left my parents’ house.
She and her husband have been two people I have loved since the day I met them in 2008 at a kindergarten Thanksgiving class party. Their grandson was in Zoë’s class. I was already friends with one of their daughters. They had left Santa Rosa Beach in early 2011 for their homes in the mountains.
I text her back asking where in western NC they were and if they were near Murphy because that’s where my childhood friend’s in-laws were. She responded and said they were about an hour west of Asheville and about 70 miles from Murphy. She mentioned Franklin, Sylva, and Bryson City, but none of that meant a damn thing to me at that point. After a couple more texts back and forth, she offered their extra cabin so the kids and I could stay and figure it all out. So, on June 26th, we put everything we could in with the rest of our stuff in storage in Madison, GA and we took off for a cabin just south of Cherokee with our corgi and two guinea pigs in our Corolla.
The mountains that day were something that the kids had never experienced and it had been decades since I had been in Western NC. The only 2 times I remember it were going to Gatlinburg and going to Asheville when I was 13 or 14. River and Zoë had only been to Helen, GA when they were really tiny before we left Athens in 2004.
That day, the kids and I decided to look at the whole thing as an adventure and that we were gypsies. We arrived early to NC and walked around at a rest area below Franklin. They were ready for a mini vacation and happy.
We got to their cabins pretty earlier than we thought because it’s just a few hours from where we were in Georgia. Later, she told me we probably had post-traumatic stress disorder because we were all freaked out and jumpy. When we got out of the car, my dear surrogate parents hugged us and told the kids to call them Me-Maw and Pa-Paw. They have two little 600 sq. ft. cabins on the side of a ridge.
We only planned on staying for a few days while we found Geoff a job in Athens and a house. My plans didn’t matter. The Universe did not open doors for returning home to Athens, where River and Zoë were born. Plus, their daughters’ families were supposed to visit and plans fell through, so we were able to stay for an extended period of time.
Around the 4th of July, we were already falling in love. The kids hadn’t gotten used to the idea of calling them Me-Maw and Pa-Paw, but they would in the coming weeks.
We didn’t have residency anywhere and I did not know what to do about school for the kids. They ended up enrolled in International Connections Academy, the sister school to the state-run Connections Academies. River skipped the 10th grade. And they were excited to find out that school didn’t start until after Labor Day.
Geoff came up the week before Hunter’s birthday, at the end of July. He had done a lot of work on our van and so it was in good condition to drive up here. We had already gotten used to the mountains, but he was freaked out by the twists and turns. A quick trip down to Cashiers really scared the hell out of him. He had to return to do some work but would be up permanently a few weeks later.
A day or two before he got up there, there was a terrible thunderstorm. We saw a bolt of lightning and heard a thundering crash at the same time. Poor Zoë ran out of the bathroom in the dark. Lightning had hit the well house 50ft above us and hit the roof. The worst damage in our cabin was yellow water for a few days, the oven died and my iPhone plug (which didn’t matter anyway). Luckily, none of our computers were plugged in. At the other cabin, their computer was fried and there were WiFi problems for both cabins for a few weeks. No oven meant no bread whatsoever. I learned to wing tortillas and making breadsticks out of a recipe for pizza dough on the stove.
After Geoff up here, I was complaining about having to dye my roots every 2 weeks. Seriously, I am only happy with my hair color for about 7 days and I start seeing roots. At 2 weeks, I cannot handle it, so I color my roots. On August 25th, I threatened to shave my head and he said he’d use his clippers… So he shaved my hair down to about a quarter inch. Thank goodness it grows quickly!
We were planning on moving near Asheville, although the kids and I were falling in love with Sylva. Still, Geoff took a night job in East Asheville at the very end of August, because it was the first to come through. Harrah’s in Cherokee was taking too long. We should have held out for Harrah’s but we needed some income faster. We had him booked, thanks to friends, at the Cashiers Leaf Festival. Most venues and private events have been booked through October by the time Geoff got up here. Before that, I did not know when he would be here, so I did not book him. I should have. Hindsight is always 20/20, isn’t it?
I got a job with Amazon, but without having Ethernet access and not just WiFi, I was not been able to start work. We looked at houses around Asheville, but outside of the actual city. Again, no doors opened up. Poor Geoff has been driving back and forth and working 50 hours a week right now. (I am standing in the window, waiting for him to get home while writing this morning.)
The next few weeks were ones where we were working to pull together bookings and find a house. We had finally decided on the Sylva area because it’s much less expensive and we like small towns. It is actually considered to be a mini-Asheville because it’s very hip and liberal, but not crowded. Some bookings came in, others didn’t. We had to be out of the cabin by Tuesday, the 4th of October because they were having their carpets cleaned and the cabins ready for one of their daughters (my friend) to come and visit this past weekend.
We found houses and found crap. One we loved the yard, but we could only rent it through May unless we bought it. It needed a lot of renovations. On Saturday, the first, I was looking through houses and decided to contact a few we had skipped. One property manager contacted me Sunday morning and told me to give her a call. I did and we planned on meeting Monday afternoon. Yes, we were cutting it close!
We loved the house. The photos did not do it justice at all. It was absolutely perfect, minus the yellow interior paint. Through a series of crazy juggling, we got into the house on the 5th. Geoff said he would paint the house so we went with the property manager to pick out the colors. We put a taupe color in the main living area and a more minty, light green in the bedrooms. The carpet in the master had to be replaced and they scheduled that. Now, the juggling of getting furniture in the house. We left everything that we couldn’t get in the car or van in a storage unit in Georgia, three hours away. (We still haven’t figured that out yet because of Geoff’s schedule.)
Honestly, the last couple of months have caused us to let go of so much but we have been given even more than we ever expected and we are so grateful.