When we first moved to North Carolina, it was common for people to ask us how we were settling in--to our new house, our adopted hometown, the kids' schools, etc. And the answers were always very concrete..."Our neighborhood's great...the boys have met lots of classmates and kids from our street...we're finding our way around." Now that we've been here for about 10 months, the polite inquiries have subtly shifted to something more along the lines of "So, does it feel like home yet? Do you get the sense that you belong here?" Hmm...for these less tangible factors, the responses aren't quite so cut-and-dried. I mean, sure, some of the reasons we came here--milder weather, new horizons to explore--have met our expectations beautifully. But as for the notion of...I don't know..."assimilating"? That's not so easy to quantify, is it?
Fortunately, I don't have to lie awake at night pondering these profound philosophical conundrums (which I totally was...okay, NOT), since several things happened recently that made me think the universe was humorously putting the issue to rest for me. First, I had the small-town experience of...running into someone you know. In this case, it was my dance teacher, in line at Whole Foods (I know, I know--of course it's where my fellow organic-crunchy-granola-tree-huggers hang out). And I don't know about you, but for me, nothing quite says "hey, you're really a part of this place now" like recognizing folks when you're out-and-about.
A similar incident occurred when Team WestEnders was meandering down Franklin Street through the heart of Chapel Hill, strolling towards our chosen restaurant for Derek's birthday dinner. It was a busy Saturday around twilight, with crowds of people enjoying the balmy Spring evening. There were couples who looked like they were on dates, parents clinging to the hands of young children, groups of gowned and tuxedoed college students out for what we assumed was a pre-UNC-event meal--it was hoppin', for sure. As we crossed an intersection amidst a throng of other pedestrians, we suddenly heard a kid's voice pipe up over the hum of conversation, "Hi, Riley!" I never quite spotted the actual child, lost as he was in a sea of taller legs, but Riley told us he was another 6th grader at his school. So we'll count that as another "friend spotting".
We continued down the sidewalk to our eatery...which turned out to be a popular place that day. Granted, it does not boast a large lobby...but the line stretched from the counter out the door. I've already mentioned that it was a lovely night, so we didn't particularly mind--more time for people-watching. We passed the time chatting and casually glancing at the waves of humanity sweeping by us, up and down the block. Apparently I wasn't as keen an observer as I could have been, however...when we got inside and sat down at a table, Derek asked if I'd noticed the very tall person behind us waiting. I admitted I hadn't. "Oh, that was Justin Jackson," he breezily informed me...in a manner that assumed I had any earthly clue what that meant. When I offered him only a blank stare, he elaborated, "He's a forward on UNC's basketball team."
Oh. Ohhhhh! That's like...a local celebrity sighting, or something! "Yeah," Derek added, "I thought it was him, but I knew for sure when another guy asked him to sign his hat!" Well, that's just too cool...I'm kinda sorry I missed it (and let's not talk about how out of it I must have been, that somehow a 6-foot-9 creature was towering over me a foot away and I failed to pay attention...I blame low blood sugar...), but at least I was there for the...near-brush-with-fame!
And finally, everyone knows I like to ramble, (no, I don't mean verbally...although clearly I enjoy that, too...) whether it's discovering places I've never been, or even seeking out alternate routes to locations I frequent (the back way to Costco--whoo hoo!). But it was still amusing to me when a couple of weeks ago a new acquaintance--who was going to be hosting out of town visitors soon--asked me what touristy-type spots I'd gotten to so far, which ones I'd found most interesting, and whether I would recommend them for her guests. I suddenly felt like a volunteer Tour Guide (Piedmont Region. And yes, I would in fact like that on a tee-shirt)...so...official...and whatnot.
So there you have it. I guess you could say we're all finding a niche here in the friendly environs of Chapelboro. (There, you see, that's another thing: insiders refer to our area that way sometimes-- because it's where Chapel Hill and Carrboro blend together. Learning the lingo...y'all...) We'll just keep on appreciating the abundant outdoor life...roaming around the highways and byways in search of entertaining adventures...and maybe memorizing the names and faces of local sports players so I can be better prepared for my next close encounter!