I first saw this saying proudly displayed on a little sign in Shirley Mickelson’s office at Bank of the James in Forest. Being a “recent” transplant to Virginia (we’d been here for about 3 years at that point), the saying resonated with me and gave me a strange sense of comfort.
I’ve never really felt like an outsider here in Amherst County, even though my former home was well north of the Mason-Dixon line. The friendliness of the local population, the breathtaking scenery and laid-back atmosphere had captured my soul during our first house-hunting visit in 2004. I remember being struck by the fact that folks would wave as you passed on the road – an unheard of occurrence in Connecticut unless the other person knew you well. We were regularly assured by prospective neighbors and local business owners that we’d love living here, and they were right.
The northwest hills of Connecticut are beautiful. There are lovely villages and the autumn leaves draw tourists from near and far. I had spent nearly all of my life in Connecticut, but when we decided to sell our horse farm and flee the harsh winters and inhospitable economic climate, we turned our eyes to Virginia – our hearts soon followed.
We’d found a lovely old house to renovate which fit our criteria perfectly – we made an offer, signed a contract and drove back to Connecticut to complete the sale of our farm and get ready for the big move.
The process wasn’t without some nail-biting moments. The first sign that things wouldn’t go as smoothly as hoped came when the appraiser we’d contacted mailed our check back and said they wouldn’t attempt to appraise the property. We guessed that a somewhat ramshackle, rambling 19 room house with a 6 room guest house on 10 acres wasn’t standard fare. Slightly discomforting, but there were other appraisers in the phone book. After we received a similar answer from the 2nd appraiser and a figure 30% below the asking price from the 3rd, we started to worry.
We came up with a few ideas for creative financing; however, the owners (several cousins who had inherited the property) weren’t too interested in our proposals. This was a problem. We’d already signed a contract to sell our farm and shipped our horses to a boarding facility in Virginia. Looking for an alternate house was something we were prepared to tackle; however, we had 3 dogs, 5 cats and a rabbit. We needed somewhere to live while we began a new search or worked out the financing with the owners of our dream house. You can’t just drive up to the local hotel with a bunch of animals and ask for a room for 6 weeks or so….
I spent hours on the internet scouring rental and sale listings and my Realtor was probably tired of seeing my number pop up on her caller ID. I decided to take a few days and run down to Virginia to see if I could get more done in person. I showed up at her door and while we were going through the dream house again – she suddenly had an idea for a possible rental. One phone call later, we had an appointment to meet with the owner at the real estate office in an hour. I looked at the house, signed the papers, crossed my fingers that my husband would approve and turned the car back north.
We left Connecticut on a frigid January day, rental truck, pickup and horse trailer packed to the gills. A supply of ginger snaps for the Rottweiler (who had a tendency to be car sick), cats and rabbit tucked into traveling crates.
We ended up spending about 4 months in the quickly rented house and then it was sold. In the meantime, the house of our dreams was taken off the market and we had been searching for a replacement in earnest. Our landlord had other rental properties, so we new we’d have a roof over our many heads, but we wanted to settle into our own place (and not have to move again)! The weekend we needed to be out of the rental, our landlord purchased a nice, older house in Monroe at auction. We moved into it that weekend, purchased it a few months later. We’ve been happily ensconced ever since.
Part of what eased our transition and acceptance into this life is the fact that we were country people in Connecticut and we’ve put down our roots in another rural area here in Virginia. We’ve never been “city folks”, or had the attitude that we could live in any area in the country as long as it had a great mall.
We’ll never be natives, and some people will always consider us Yankees; but we’ve found our home here and can’t imagine a better place to live. As Mrs. Mickelson’s sign says: We weren’t born here, but we came just as soon as we could.