My church friends from our Vermont years called me last month and asked me if I could come speak at their next women's breakfast. I said I think I can arrange that.
I remember in 2004 how unsure I was that a southerner could transplant from Tennessee to Vermont, but I learned very quickly that it can be done with ease.
As I prepare to return this weekend, I dug up this old post from April, 2011. There's just no better way to explain my feelings about living in Vermont--the best kept secret in America.
Thank You, Vermont.
“A company in Vermont wants to interview me,” my husband said to me one spring day.
“Vermont?” I said. “I don’t want to move to Vermont.”
Oh, but I did. I just didn’t know it.
My sister called. “Robert is in Vermont on a job interview,” I said, “but we’re not moving to Vermont.”
Oh, but we were. I just didn’t know it.
“Honey? Guess what?” he said through the phone. “We’re moving to Vermont!”
I hung up the phone, excited, then scared. Can a family with eight kids move from Memphis to Vermont? I wasn’t sure.
But we could. And we did. Eight kids from six weeks old to 17 years.
Surely those sophisticated New Englanders will think I talk funny, not to mention too much, I thought to myself. Do they even wear make up in Vermont?
I very quickly saw I could not have been more wrong. They thought my southern ways endearing, even calling my accent charming. And they didn’t even mind my lipstick.
It was 42 degrees when we pulled in on June 2, 2004. “If it’s that cold in June,” my sister pondered, “what is January like?” I was afraid of the answer.
But Vermonters embraced the cold summers. For the rest of that summer, in fact, I kept waiting for it to warm up, to really arrive. At the community pool I wrapped a towel around baby Dorothy to shield her from the cold—in July. The lifeguards wore sweatshirts over their bathing suits. The kids’ lips turned blue in the pool. Even in August, the pavement was cool to my feet.
“Oh the humidity!” the Vermonters would wail when the temps would approach 80 cool degrees for a day (or a minute) or two in August.
“You don’t know anything about humidity,” I told them.
“And you don’t know anything about the cold,” they told me. They were right.
Vermont did teach me about the cold, yes. But it taught me so much more. I was taken aback by their hospitality—something southerners are known for. Their work ethic, their frugality, I could go on and on.
“People are so accepting here,” my oldest son observed upon arriving home from school. We had moved his senior year—usually a challenging time to change schools. Another needless worry—for him the move was seamless. In fact, he met a terrific girl in English class and married her a few years later.
And I was delighted when the teenage girls from school rang the doorbell to invite my then 15 year old Bethany to come along with them on a Sunday afternoon. But they weren't going to the mall, not these Vermont girls. They were going to hike a mountain.
Today I returned to Vermont for a visit. I was filled with nostalgia and gratitude as Lake Champlain came into view. I pointed out the cows to the kids and was once again charmed by the covered bridges and the overall loveliness of the place. And though lots of folks visit Vermont for the beauty, it is the people that keep me coming back. What a gift, a privilege, a blessing.
Thank you, Vermont. Now I know.