83: Our Mayberry

83: Our Mayberry

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Home Sweet Home

Our Mayberry

Don’t buy the house, buy the neighborhood.

~Russian Proverb

My husband was raised in a small town that had changed very little in the last hundred years. And he never quite embraced living in a city of over four million people.

When the last of our children left home, he was ready to move someplace with a slower pace and maybe a little acreage. In my mind this was a three-acre mini estate in the suburbs. But after three and half years of searching, I came to realize that my husband’s idea and mine were vastly different.

One evening he called to me, saying he had found the perfect place. “Wonderful!” I exclaimed. “Where?”

“Right here,” he said, pointing his finger to a dot on a Georgia map.

“Are you serious? We have looked in a dozen counties for over three years and you have found the ‘perfect place’ on a map?”

My husband reads maps with the same zeal the average person would a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.

“See right here; it is the perfect area. It is within fifty miles of Atlanta so we can still commute to work. There is a divided highway all the way and very few roads, so obviously it’s not very populated.”

“Not very populated — what makes you think we can even find a house in an area you are calling ‘not very populated’?”

“It won’t hurt to look. Let’s just ride out there Sunday and check it out — what do you say?”

I agreed and we planned a trip out the following weekend. And as crazy as it sounds, after three long years of searching, he found our dream home — on a Georgia map. It was not the mini estate in the suburbs that I had envisioned, but instead twenty-six acres in a rural farming community. I knew it would be an adjustment, but it wasn’t like we were moving to a mud hut in the Yukon. So I agreed.

My husband was ecstatic. I heard him happily mumbling as he wandered off to the garage: “I can have a little garden and grow my own food… of course I will need a tractor… I can deer hunt on my own land… fish in my own front yard. We can literally live off the land. It will be like paradise.…”

It was a quaint little town with a kind of a Mayberry feel to it. And I actually began to look forward to it as I remembered scenes of Andy Griffith picking “Church in the Wildwood” on the porch swing. I envisioned a neighborhood Welcoming Committee, and I could almost smell the homemade cookies and hear the crickets chirping as I began to pack.

However, my fantasy quickly faded as I realized it was forty-five miles to the nearest mall. Seven miles to a tiny grocery store. And the only place to eat within fifteen miles was a Dairy Queen. There was no cable TV; no trash pickup; and we had to use propane and well water. And the community’s idea of animal control was a twelve-gauge shotgun! Oh my gosh — we were moving to 1962!

So as visions of dead animals floating in my water supply played out in my head, I packed up a case of Clorox and reluctantly headed for “paradise.”

We moved in early September. Shortly before Christmas, we were sitting down to dinner when the doorbell rang. I thought back to my Mayberry fantasy. As it turned out the “Welcoming Committee” was wearing a badge and carrying a summons — a boundary dispute that had begun twenty years earlier had just landed in our laps.

Many tears and many thousands of dollars later, our “dream” home on Maple Springs seemed a lot more like A Nightmare on Elm Street.

And so began the first year in our new home.

The following spring, my son, his wife and nineteen-month-old son came to spend the weekend. We awoke Saturday morning to fifteen inches of snow — fifty miles from Atlanta, Georgia. Snowdrifts were up to the tops of our windows!

I had never seen that much snow. I was so excited… for about fifteen minutes. Until the power went out. We had no lights, no heat and no water! Then one of our neighbors called with a comforting word: “Well usually when we get snow up here we don’t have power for about two weeks, but we’ve never seen anything like this!”

I sat in silent disbelief, my throat tightening as the full impact of that statement sank in. And then I remembered — we had a baby here.

My husband had figured out how to pull the concrete cap off our well and get water with a rope and bucket, and he had gathered plenty of firewood, but he couldn’t help us with the diaper situation.

The second day of the blizzard the neighbor across the road called to check on us “city folks.” I told her we were fine, our only problem was we had a baby with us and were about to run out of diapers. About two hours later there was a knock at the door and there she stood. She had walked over two miles in fifteen inches of snow and ice from house to house to gather a supply of diapers, milk and baby clothes for us.

I was speechless.

The next day there was another neighbor at the door asking if we had a grill or a camp stove he could borrow — not for himself but for another neighbor with three children who had no way to prepare food. The third day we looked out and the neighbor involved in the lawsuit, his teenage son and two other people we did not know were shoveling snow and ice from our 650-foot-long driveway!

I sat in total disbelief as I saw my vision of Mayberry come to life.

Over the years, we have come in from work to find: one of our neighbors waving happily as he mowed our lawn; a little windmill fashioned from an old bicycle wheel — spinning around — in my flower bed; a warm pound cake anonymously stuck inside my door; a basket of fresh homegrown tomatoes sitting in our porch swing; and a dozen white irises planted by my fence!

Our neighbors have taken in our dog during a storm; came while we were on vacation to pick up tree limbs, lawn chairs and our trash cans after high winds scattered them over the yard. They have brought us apples from their trees, fried pies from the Amish country, fresh vegetables from their garden, and even once a puppy after our dog died.

It has been twenty years since that first rocky year. Looking back today, I think everyone should be so lucky as to be able to move to 1962. After all, it was a really great year!

~Andrea Peebles

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