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by Nicole Smith

June 6th, 2006… The day I left Bladen County. It was the day after my high school graduation, and I couldn’t wait to leave. To me, Wilmington was the “big city”. Tall(er) buildings, nightlife, and… THE BEACH! Little did I know how much my hometown really meant to me.

I spent the first 16 years of my life living on Rosindale Road near Lisbon. No more than 25 minutes from any of my immediate family. My, how I miss that house. Even when it was empty, and you were the only person there, it still felt full. It had what quite possibly may have been the ugliest bathroom known to man, but to this day, it’s my favorite. Outside there were fields on three sides, a huge, open yard, and about the biggest oak tree I’d ever seen outback. It’s the only place that has ever, 1000%, felt like home.

The family got together for just about every holiday (watching the “men” set off fireworks for July 4th was always entertaining!), and oftentimes just because we wanted to see each other. Christmas was the best. Lordy, how my mom LOVED to decorate for Christmas. She was especially good at making the most beautiful Christmas pinecone baskets you could imagine.

Sundays were probably my favorite day of the week. They meant a FANTASTIC lunch… Dad’s fried chicken, or maybe a roast (always put in the oven before we went to church). Whatever it was, it was going to be perfect.

I loved going with Dad to church on Sunday or Wednesday evenings and watching him in choir practice. He’d never let you hear him now, but he had some pipes back in his day.

The Sunday mornings when we would go to hear my Grandad (Rev. Don Coley) preach were a special treat! His voice was so soothing, and you truly wanted to hear everything he had to say. He gave the best sermons.

Bladen County is where I learned most of my life skills. My Granny (Mrs. Mary Coley) taught me how to make scrambled eggs and gravy (not together, although I probably wouldn’t turn my nose up at it if someone offered it to me). If you know those two things, you will at least be able to feed yourself when you grow up! Grandma always had me shelling some peas and snapping some green beans. Both necessary for survival in those parts.

I never knew exactly what might happen on the weekend, either. Maybe your Grandad (Mr. Herman Smith) calls you at 6 am to see if you want to take a one day trip to and from Virginia… Maybe your Grandma (Mrs. Eunice Smith) wants to go on a shopping trip to St. Pauls… Could be that you end up going to see a hockey game with your Dad, or simply that your brothers decide they want to torture their little sister for the afternoon (I say torture, but I know, and I’m sure they did, that I loved it… at least some of the time). Or, it could be that this is the day your Grandad (Coley) finally catches a goose!!!

You always see somebody you know when you go to town. I think my favorite store to visit was Moore’s. The ladies that worked there would always let me sit on the counter and try to make bows with the ribbon they had for gift wrapping (it’s the little things that make children happy).

I never realize how much I miss this place until I visit. And now, I find myself back to my roots… Part-time, at least. Back to the small town that created the person I am today. Someone who craves time spent with family, who can’t wait until field peas are in season, and who would give anything to climb that oak tree just one more time. I guess we can never really stay away from a place we truly love.