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Friday, June 15, 2012

Roots That Keep Us Grounded - Living and Writing in Woodstock, GA

Today, I  met a man. A century man. One hundred years old. Born in Woodstock in 1912, he wanted to tell me about all the changes he had seen take place in our town. Maybe he sensed I would listen. His excitement or the happy sounds of his birthday party at the City Chambers, not forgetting the distraction of others rushing in to greet him, hindered his ability to fully express what he longed to say. So he just repeated his general statement about our city's transformation, with his eyes lit up like candles on a cake.

Over the years, I had heard of longtime resident, Claud Barnes. I had even seen his long-ago photo. A purposeful young man dressed in WWII uniform, he smiled, engaged in conversation with his pretty wife as they strode along a sidewalk in a big city elsewhere. The war wasn't over yet. Earlier, they had lost their infant child, and Claud would soon face the deadly struggle on the beaches of Normandy. That optimistic photo is a picture of courage in a time of deep uncertainty. This is the vital element of which our country is made. This is the strong stuff our town birthed. I drifted away letting others visit with the guest of honor as I wondered what details and observations about Woodstock past must be nestled close to that man's heart.

Sometimes it takes a while to appreciate the place where we live. Sometimes we never do. Thirty two years have passed since my husband and I claimed our spots here. Raised on the outskirts of large cities in the South, we tried to tamp down the few reservations that might lift our barely formed roots from our little piece of Woodstock soil and let us blow away. In 1980, the city was a smaller, slower, quieter place and not so different than it was in the '50s or even earlier. We stayed. We raised our children. We found our partiality growing for a town of which we had no previous connection. That's what happens when you go about the business of living. After a time, the experience imperceptibly encourages you to invest yourself in your neighbors, in the schools and in the most central things--your home and yard. Surprised, you discover your investment in your community has intensified your affection.

I hope it's been happening to you, too, wherever you are.

Thank you, Claud Barnes, for causing us to love you. Thank you for being one of the roots that hold us to our town.   


Claud and his wife, Ruth, shortly
before he returns to the war front.

A sample of what grows on my piece of Woodstock soil.

Patti is a member of Preservation Woodstock, Inc. and the author of the Woodstock novels.