Roots

Though I was born in Murray Kentucky, my family moved to Lexington where I spent most of my childhood (along with visiting relatives still in Murray). But at age 11, my mother moved to Chattanooga Tennessee, where I spent over 30 years of my life.

We lived in the city, where everything was accessible and convenient. Chattanooga was pretty big compared to Lexington and Murray, so there were plenty of competitive businesses, and that created good work ethics. If a company said they would be there at a certain time, they were there, and chances are they would be out that day, knowing there was a chance you could go to another business to get service.

The neighborhoods I lived in were suburban, and the landscaping was immaculate. But Chattanooga was once deemed the dirtiest city in America by Walter Cronkite – leading us to a big change. The factories left with their soot and debris, and we emerged with a beautiful waterfront. Around the river, we rebuilt our city with fine restaurants, museums, and an art district.

After twenty years of hosting eateries moving toward the ‘eat local – eat fresh’ movement, we had several places to try new dishes that tourist would rave about. These were foods that our grandparents would never think to use in combination together. I will never forget trying my first taste of Gelato made from beets. Beets in an ice cream? Sweet? But it was so good! An explosion of flavors were experimented with that were a big hit for foodies. Organic, farm raised foods put together in artful ways.

Then came the entrepreneurs by droves. I interviewed a man who was bringing the 3-D printer on the forefront. I’d never heard of such. I could see we were headed for a whole new era. And that’s when Chattanooga was really put on the map – not as the dirtiest city, not just because of the Choo-Choo, or large aquarium and IMAX Theater, but we were then coined “Gig City” because we had the fastest speed internet in the nation through EPB – and this was over a decade ago.

When I married my childhood friend from Murray and came back to my roots; I left the scenic mountains I used to hike, I left the gardens, museums, eclectic restaurants, and the way of life as I knew it.

When I traveled the country road that led me to my new home, there were no rocks and hills of mountains to drive by. There were flat lands and… cows.

I wondered how I could live in an area that had “nothing”. At least Paducah was close enough, to give me that city feel if I ever missed it. I was intrigued though, with my new simple life. I needed simple, though I had no idea how I would live here and not miss Chattanooga every day.

When my husband and I came back from our honeymoon, there was absolutely no food in the house. As a bachelor he had always grabbed food out. So we had our left over Chinese food for breakfast and I went shopping that day.

The next morning, I made coffee and it seemed to take forever. I was used to a Bunn or a Keurig and my husband had a Mr. Coffee. He was not in a hurry. Trying to impress him with a good breakfast, I apologized for the coffee taking so long, and my husband replied with an exaggerated twang, “Well out here ma’am, we take things nice and slow.” And I fell even more in love with him.

I soon learned that when you call for a plumber or contractor, not to expect them that day – and maybe not even that week. “I might be able to get out there next week,” would be most replies unless it was an emergency. It baffled me, and at first I was a little indignant, thinking people around here didn’t want our business. Not long after, I realized that in my small town of Murray, we have few companies to choose from, and they have no competition. If you don’t want to wait until after they have their fishing day, you were out of luck.

My Mama always said you catch more flies with honey, so I learned to put away my city girl expectations and impatience, and embrace this rural country life. And that suited where God had me in my faith. Getting back to simple. Being rooted. Slowing down, embracing what was important.

My husband and I live ten minutes from Murray in Calloway County, so we are surrounded my corn fields. What seemed boring to me, became endearing. Each time I traveled to visit family in Chattanooga, I longed driving by the flat fields of gold and rust, in the fall, and the bright green yields of tobacco, corn and soy in the summer. This was home. My old Kentucky home.

After learning of the cousins I have in Murray as well as the family legacy I was left by my grandparents, aunts and uncles; Murray and the surrounding towns proved to be what my heart truly longed for all along. To belong. I never knew how important roots were.

Two of my sons moved here and live a mile up the road from us. They are learning the ways of the farmers here, learning to slow down in life.  I appreciate the sunrises and sunsets that have been a gift in which God keeps giving.

And as spring approaches, and I walk our greyhounds along our long country road, I see the purple clover sprouting in the corn fields knowing it’s almost time for the farmers to sow their crops. And pretty soon, there will be a sea of yellow across the fields, where wild mustard grows across from us, as well as Canola in nearby farmer’s crops.

I appreciate no traffic, and the slower pace of life. I appreciate the local businesses of hometown folk and I can wait for them to enjoy a day of fishing. I too, enjoy my hikes along the creek beds, taking pictures of the sunrises and sunsets, and the wholesome, family feel of my birthplace where I have roots. I appreciate that we have one (historical) Dairy Queen, in which people wait for all winter long. It closes at the end of October and opens again in March – and it’s a big deal. My grandparents took me to this same Dairy Queen and now I have taken mine.

The Bible says, “We reap what we sow,” and I may not be a farmer, but what I plan to sow for my family, is the simple life, and Love.

jenjeffreybillington@gmail.com

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