Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Virginia is for Lovers


or, Why this Virginian loves her Commonwealth.

Today's blog post is yet another departure from knitting content, a departure for which I am most grateful because Chez Virgin Wool continues to remain void of knitting content. My sheepy muse may have moved on to greener pastures, at least until the weather cools.

So, instead, I have agreed to participate in the Pike's Peak project in honor of our nation's birthday, hosted by the gal who writes the I Live on a Farm blog. You can read a little more about that project on her blog here, but I'll quote her intent briefly:

"...My idea is that at least one blogger from each of the 50 states would write an essay about what it is that makes their little place on Earth and in America beautiful....

We can form a blogging chain all around the country and share the beauty of this land with photographs or words or a mixture of both … on the 4th of July...."

I do recommend reading her entire post -- it's quite moving.

I am one of two Virginia participants, so without further ado will proceed to give due props to my chosen place of residence.

I was born in Arlington, VA, and lived the first 7 years of my life in Falls Church, a suburb of our nation's capitol. My father then changed jobs and moved us down to Richmond, the state capitol, where I grew up, attended school, moved away, moved back, bought a house and currently make my home. I've lived in this Commonwealth for 40 of my 42 years.

Virginia is one of just four U.S. states that designate themselves as "commonwealths". The other three are Kentucky, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

Bordered by Maryland, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, Virginia marks the halfway point along the eastern seaboard, midway between Maine and Florida.

Virginians have lots of history of which to be proud. The first permanent English settlement in the new world was founded at Jamestown, just an hour's drive southeast from Richmond. Every Virginian learns their Virginia history in grade school, and every Virginian I know balks at the Hollywood-ized falsifications made of the Captain John Smith-Pocahontas story. For the record, Pocahontas saved Smith's life, but married John Rolfe. Please, Hollywood, stop creating a romance for her and Smith where there was none.

Virginia is known as the "Mother of Presidents" because eight U.S. presidents were born here, and as the "Mother of States", because portions of the original colony subsequently became five other states.

Arguably less laudable but still historic, Richmond, Virginia became the capitol of the confederacy during the Civil War, and the White House of the Confederacy still stands in downtown Richmond.

I could go on and on citing Virginia trivia, but I won't bore you any further with that. My Virginia readers already know it, and non-Virginians can always look it up in Wikipedia if they want further details.

I will, however, go on to describe why I love this state, my home.

Two experiences in my life come to mind.

First occurred during the summer between 4th and 5th grades. One of my 4th grade teachers suggested I participate in a summer program called "Class on Wheels". It involved some classroom time learning about a particular region of the state, and then an overnight field trip to visit that region. Four such field trips were held, to the four "corners" of the state. That experience left an indelible mark on me. I learned more about my beloved state than I ever thought possible, and the learning was supplemented by first-hand experiences -- visits to museums and factories and natural wonders, things many rising 5th graders never see.

I know we went all over and saw many sites, including the Natural Bridge, Luray Caverns and Monticello, but the visits that stick in my mind to this day are the more unusual places. Like the Planters Peanut factory in Suffolk. And furniture factories in Martinsville. And a pork processing plant in Smithfield. That last one really sticks in my mind, and not in a pleasant way. Imagine showing a bus load of 4th graders a movie about how pigs are "processed" (slaughtered), and then taking us to a diner for a lunch of ham biscuits. A little too much for my young stomach, and it would still be too much for my middled-aged sensibilities.

Fast-forward to 1990. I was in my last semester at MCV, about to graduate, and the dean of our program sat down with us one day and gave us a frank talk about the status of available jobs in our field. She explained that the demand was great and the pool of resources small, so we should be choosy about our first jobs. That got me to thinking. Hmmmm.... Where would I want to live and work if I could live and work anywhere in the country.

What came to mind: Hawaii.

After sending lots of applications, I was hired over the phone to work at Kona Hospital, in Kealakekua, on the Big Island of Hawaii. I moved to Kailua-Kona in September of 1990, and stayed for about 2½ years. During my time there I accomplished my goal -- to see what it was like to live and work in such an exotic locale. I did see and do wonderful things, visited wonderful places, made wonderful friends, and had a wonderful time. But one thing that never left me was a longing for home, and after a couple of years, I felt I'd seen everything I wanted to see and was ready to leave. A job opened up back in Richmond, and I took it.

I was never so happy as when I was finally back on home turf. Back in a land where it gets cold on Thanksgiving and Christmas, where the leaves change colors in the fall, where the trees are bare in winter, and if we're lucky, we'll see some snow. Back, of course, to where most of my family and old friends still live.

But I don't regret my move to Hawaii, nor the move back. Not only did I get to see a gorgeous place that many folks see just once in their lives, if at all, but I also gained a much fuller appreciation of the land where I was raised. And it wasn't just the familiarity of home that drew me back. While away, I started making a mental checklist of I things I loved about Richmond and Virginia. Below is a list of a few things I came up with:
  • four (somewhat) equal seasons
  • changing leaves of autumn
  • snow
  • spring blooms
  • mountains
  • beaches
  • proximity to Washington, D.C.
  • museums
  • historic sites
  • beautiful locations
  • activities in and around the region
  • educational opportunities

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. And, of course, every state in this country has a list like that. In fact, I could come up with an equally long list to describe why I love Hawaii. (And I still do -- I've gone back there quite a few times since returning to Virginia. Once as a guest of the State of Hawaii, after I was subpoenaed to testify in a murder trial. (Yes, you read that right. But that's a story for another day's blog post.)

My point, (and I do have one), is that, the reason this Virginian loves this Commonwealth, at the root of everything else, is because it is, first and foremost, my home.

Happy Independence Day, everyone!

Click on any direction below to find other blogs participating in the Pike's Peak Project: From Sea to Shining Sea!

West East


Having a Knit Fitt said...

And great people! Thanks for all the reminders about my chosen home since 1976. I came for graduate school and never left.

Nikki said...

What a great post! I love living in Virginia too!! It's my home.

emmy said...

Very nicely written Mary as always. Makes me proud to be a fellow Virginian

Robin said...

Thanks...what a WONDERFUL post, and I for one am glad you moved back here, otherwise I'm not so sure we would have met!
I Love Virginia too!

Krista said...

What a great post Mary! I moved here 9 years ago and it's the best move I ever made!

Margaret said...

Thanks for a wonderful look at what you love about our state. I grew up in MD, and like Cate, I came for grad school but made the mistake of leaving for ten years, and I think never stopped missing Cville. I'm glad to have been back for ten years and have no plans to leave again. Hope you have a Happy 4th!

firefly said...

You brought Virginia to life for me, and created a warm understanding of why it is the home you love.

Thanks so much for your engaging participation in the Pike's Peak Project!

Warmest regards,

Courtney said...

I always loved the "Virginia is for lovers" state slogan. It's one of the things that I miss most now that I've moved away. Texas is for lovers just doesn't have the same ring to it.

Ranger Susie said...

What a great project! And a really good post. Off to see what anybody said about Florida!

Leslie Shelor said...

Excellent job on your post! And sometimes we have to leave just so we can truly realize how great our homes really are!

Karen said...

I live in MD but until we married, Hubby was from VA. It truly is all you have described. Thanks for showing everyone what a wonderful place it is.

(visiting from a link on Yarn Harlot)