About a month ago I received a response to an email, which I had actually forgotten sending. Sometime in the craziness of spring semester (probably while my 7th grade students were completing their STAR reading test) I had responded to an online blurb for a bookshop sitter in Big Stone Gap, Virginia. I do remember thinking, Oh that would be fun but in that theoretical I will probably never hear back or my husband would never go for it way. Yet here in my inbox was the response: asking if I were available in June.
My initial reaction was to say no. I say no a lot when theoretical becomes reality. Then I thought about a book gifted to me by a fellow teacher friend. The book, which I confess that I haven’t actually read, is Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. I used to be a yes girl. When had I become such a party pooper? After clearing it with my husband and making sure it was ok to bring my son Bryant with me, I said yes.
So here I sit, in an area of the country where I have never visited feeling occasional wafts of homesickness, but rediscovering parts of me that I had long forgotten existed. I signed up to shop sit without actually knowing what that entailed. No, I hadn’t read Wendy’s book The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap before arriving. My only preconception of the town was a glamorized love story later made into a film starring Ashley Judd.
I pictured rolling green mountains and babbling brooks, which do exist and are every bit as breathtaking as I imagined. I imagined hikes in the woods and finally starting to write again. I imagined browsing and reading the endless titles of books available to me. I envisioned Bryant and I going on scenic morning runs.
A lot of these things have happened and many have exceeded my expectations. For example, the morning runs on the greenbelt are amazing. Bryant and I even entered a 5K to support the local football team, and for the first time in a long time I was able to beat him. Browsing titles in the bookshop and adding more and more books to my to read list is cathartic. Tidying the kid’s room allows me to discover titles from my own youth that I had long forgotten.
The kindness and friendliness of the people of Big Stone Gap and its surrounding communities is more than I could have imagined. The people associated with the Appalachian Feline Friends are so helpful because, let’s face it, I take care of one cat at home. Here, I take care of 1 dog (with more meds than my grandmother), 3 adult cats, and as many as 9 kittens give or take those adopted out and new arrivals.
The lady who cleans the shop obviously recognized my poor culinary skills, probably by the burned scrambled egg pan soaking in the sink, so brought me a delicious vegetarian meal. The patrons that visit the shop, whether to buy books or adopt a cat, stay and share so much more have taught me to value each individual’s story. Most importantly, I am learning to sit still and enjoy spending time with myself again, and who knows maybe this will lead to writing again.