Why We Still Live Here

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After the last posting Why Do They Stay?, I anticipated hearing the question, "Why do you still live there?" And I have. The question has come from several sources since many of you link my blogs with your own or send them to your friends. In addition, quite a few newspapers printed that last one …

My point is that I have had more than ample opportunity to talk about and think about my answers. And they are not as simple as I'd first imagined. The answers are shallow in places, but some go much deeper than I thought they would. Please remember as you read, this is only my opinion. We are not arguing a "truth" here. That being said, I am interested in your "whys" about where you live. I'll bet some of yours line up with mine.

Here now, five reasons why we still live here …

1) Ya gotta live somewhere!

After Hurricane Ivan destroyed our house four years ago, my business manager was promoting a move to Nashville. "You never know when this might happen again," he would say. A few months later, a tornado hit Nashville killing 27 people and destroying hundreds of homes. Obviously, they had little warning. When Ivan hit here, at least they told us to leave. And no one was killed.

I suppose we could live in Nebraska or Oklahoma, but they have tornados there, too. The Pacific Northwest is beautiful. Mount St. Helens and Sasquatch … need I say more? Minnesota … you can die shoveling snow there. New York City? I imagine terrorists standing in line in New York City. Washington D.C.? You never want to be the smartest person in the town where you live (I'm kidding). Maybe California … ? Nope, sorry. I'll take my three day hurricane warning. You can wake up to your earthquake. Or fire. Or mudslide.

Anyway, ya gotta live somewhere. So I do.

2) Kevin is here …

And Pat and Sandy and Joe and Alan and the Habers and the Salters and the Gilleys. John and Shannon are here with Lacy in the summer. SB lives here. And PC and the Woo. Jerry and Katrina, Mike and Melanie, Greta and Greg, Ted and Kathryn, Cliff and Myrth. Debbie and Steve are moving back soon with Eli and Bailey Grace. Hopefully, Mr. Dave and Miss Mary will be close behind. Claudia and Hunter and Shelby live right across the street. Joey and Elizabeth, (whom I continue to love even though they sent my boys home with TWO kittens) live here.

The church we've gone to for fourteen years is here. The blond lady who works at the dry cleaners who always puts the cleaning in the car—she's here. Clay and Susan and Becky and Tom, our pharmacists at Winn-Dixie all live here. Dr. Art, the Chiropractor, Miss Nancy who drives the Auburn pick-up, Merle at Cotton Creek, Ted and Lynn at Pack & Mail, Nancy and Willie at Sea N Suds …

These are just some of the awesome friends who live near us. And most of the other people here are just like them. There is something special about these folks and this area. When Hurricane Ivan blasted through Wolf Bay Lodge (one of our favorite places to eat), some of the things to blow away were the more than 10,000 one-dollar bills that had been signed and stapled to the ceiling throughout the past twenty years. No one knows how many were lost at sea, but of the bills that were spread over thirty miles of coastline, 7,500 of them were returned. That's right. More than seven thousand, five hundred one dollar bills returned with a "We saw it was signed, so we knew it was yours," to Wolf Bay Lodge.

We can't leave this area. If we left, we'd have to take everyone with us!

3) Fresh Seafood.

Last Friday night, Pat called and asked if we wanted to go fishing the next morning. We did and had filets on the grill that night. Kevin came in with a couple of yellowfin tuna on Sunday afternoon. Polly fixed the rice and we had sushi … immediately. We catch blue crabs off the dock, speckled trout, flounder and redfish under the dock lights at night, and drag a trawl for shrimp whenever we want them. Several years ago, I caught 110 pounds of shrimp in one morning!

Yeah, yeah, I hear you. "Andy," you are saying, "we get fresh seafood, too!" No, sorry, you probably don't. Unless you live on a coast and/or catch it yourself, it isn't fresh. I know the sign says fresh in the store. I know the waiter says it's fresh at the restaurant. But believe me—a day or two on the boat, a day in the truck, and a couple of days at the store before it goes to the restaurant … is not fresh.

Catch them in the morning. Eat them that night. That's fresh.

4) Unique learning opportunities.

One example: our salt-water aquarium. Understand, this is not one of the big expensive saltwater tanks with a thousand dollars worth of fish. Our aquarium is a $59.95, twelve-gallon set up from Wal-Mart. No special mixture for the salt water, no thermostat, no testing. It's just shells from the beach, three or four buckets full of water from the dock, and whatever critters we catch in our own backyard.

Austin and Adam spend hours with their cast nets. They keep the aquarium supplied with pets like our seahorses Flicka and Ed, the little electric ray Sting Ray Knight, and our clam … Clamu. We have starfish and scallops and pipefish, too. Aquarium feeding time is a family event for us and it happens several times a week. All the critters eat tiny shrimp that we wade through the grass beds to catch (even in winter) with a tiny meshed net.

And while I am thinking about it, even winter is pretty warm. We might have one or two nights a year that go below freezing, but most Decembers, Santa rides around our town in a red '55 Thunderbird convertible.

5) My history is here.

I read somewhere that almost 90% of us feel strong ties to a specific city or state. I guess I do. My parents honeymooned on the Alabama coast in 1957 and took a week's vacation here every year until they died. My sister, Kristi, and I went on all those vacations and in a way, grew up here. I see things that remind me of them every day. So many of the restaurants and the businesses and churches are in the same place.

Daddy took me to Frith's bait shop to buy our live shrimp when I was a little boy. Soon after Mama and Daddy died, I worked there for a while, selling those shrimp by the dozen under the watchful eye of Mr. Frith. Now, I take my little boys in to buy shrimp from Mr. Frith's son, Butch. I could catch them myself, but Butch shakes their hands and teases them about the size of the fish in the stories they tell. It's worth whatever I have to pay to feel that sense of my daddy in that shop watching the grandsons he never got to meet.

Polly and I lived in a small condo when we got married, but we have only owned one house. It is the same one we live in today. It is where our boys have always lived. It is where I write. It is the place we have laughed most often, cried occasionally, and come to know ourselves. More than a house, it is our home.

So that is why we still live here. Not the greatest of reasons, maybe, but they are our reasons. And even through the stressful years after Ivan—even though we swore if it ever happened again, we would move—I suspect we might be here for a long time still. No matter what.


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