Back in the land of lighting bugs, magnolia trees, and sweet tea. After living out of the Carolinas for more than 30 years, I have finally made my way back home.
Like many people in the world, the COVID pandemic pushed me to reflect on what is important. The virus took our beloved nephew, Mark, at the age of 53. A strong man who served as a district chief in the Gulfport, Miss., fire department and a Harrison County Fire Service battalion chief, his death rocked us.
A month later, a friend from Montgomery, Ala., succumbed to COVID. Eric Lewis was 56. He was a respected veterinarian and Rotarian, and one of the most giving and honest people I have ever known.
My husband, Marshall, and I realized it was time to be closer to family instead of a two- or three-day drive away. We had spent our married life in Colorado and Texas and visits with loved ones were few and far between. It was time for that to change.
Making Morganton my new hometown
Why Morganton? Only God knows. I mean that. Western North Carolina was our target area, but we assumed we would land in Asheville or its immediate surroundings. My sister, Kim, and her family live in Black Mountain. My brother, Kevin, and his family live in our hometown of Irmo, S.C. One of my husband’s sisters, Anita, lives in Crossville, Tenn. On paper, Asheville seemed like the logical place to plant new roots. But that apparently was not the plan.
We toured what seemed like a thousand homes that did not fit the bill, either financially or in function. Then on a whim, I broadened the search. A newly constructed farmhouse on acreage just outside Morganton’s city limits popped up.
The house was a little smaller than we were looking for so I initially determined it wouldn’t work for us. But I kept coming back to its online listing. I researched Morganton and Burke County. I felt drawn to the area. When I couldn’t shake it, I showed the listing to Marshall. A few months later, we were the owners of that house.
We both have fallen in love with the area. Since moving into the house in October 2022, we have taken our two dogs and explored. Each passing day confirms we made the right decision.
Returning to my first love
The South is not the only thing I have returned to – I am coming full circle professionally, too. When I graduated from Auburn University (War Eagle!) with a journalism degree, my first job out of college was as a reporter for the Montgomery Advertiser. I wrote a wide range of stories, many of which took me inside the public and private schools in the area.
Walking the halls of a school always felt good to me. As a child, I loved going to school and the library. English was a favorite subject (though I also liked math and science). I entered essay contests and speech contests, and joined the drama troupe. In college, I was a disc jockey at the college radio station. Whatever had to do with communication or storytelling in any form, I was all in.
Being a reporter also gave me the license to ask questions. I am terribly curious. I drove my parents crazy asking them “Why?” I wasn’t being rebellious or obstinate, I really wanted to know why, to understand. Even now, I learn new things for the sake of learning.
I took a decades-long detour from newspapers into community relations, public information, economic development, and blogging jobs. I even owned a small fitness studio for a few years. Those roles enabled me to hone valuable communications skills, but they never gave me the same fulfillment that I had as a newspaper reporter. From elected leaders to fifth-graders, from pastors to orchestra conductors, I gained so much by meeting these people and telling their stories.
Telling people-centered stories
If you know of something you believe should be in our coverage, I encourage you to reach out to me. Send me an email. Give me a call. There is no doubt there are countless stories that have gone untold. As a Morganton and Burke County newcomer, I will need all the help I can get.
Everyone has been incredibly welcoming, and I will probably meet some of you beyond the pages of this paper. If not, it’s my hope that you get the feeling that you know me a little by my writing.
Now that I’m back in the South, I plan to relive some of my favorite childhood memories. Don’t be surprised to find me barefoot, capturing lighting bugs in a jar and staying outside way past supper time to stare at the stars.