Tuesday, December 24, 2013

One Year Later

I was told over a month ago that we would be traveling for our anniversary. The destination was a tightly-controlled secret. I believe many other people knew where we were going, but I was kept in the dark until we had arrived.

My husband knows me well and picked absolutely the perfect place--a little B&B in Greensboro. Just far enough away to feel like a real get-away, but without spending too much of our short weekend, three days before Christmas, on traveling. A perfect solution.

We walked along Elm Street, and I was delighted to discover a plethora of shops filled with local wares.  Several cooperative galleries operate on Elm, with repurposed and upcycled items, as well as stuff from local artists.  One store included locally-minded t-shirts, including one with the outline of NC on it, and the simple moniker, "Home," centered in the outline.  Another divided our fair state in half, with "Tomato" on the left, and "Vinegar" on the right, showing the heated rivalry of barbecue styles.  (For those interested in more on the subject, simply google "NC BBQ" and check out the wikipedia page all about it.  BBQ is serious business down here.)

We got a ton of ideas for things to make, both for ourselves and for the home.  So many lighting projects, and so many yard decorations.  We purchased wooden Christmas ornaments and oohed and ahhed over various pottery and fused glass pieces. 

The culture of local and artistic permeates much of the street, and even the two eye glass stores double as art galleries, with beautiful pieces throughout the store.  They were completely comfortable with the two of us walking in simply to look around, with no plans to buy lenses whatsoever.  

We had parked near the B&B which was walking distance from Elm Street, and had wandered down to the shopping district.  We started with coffee and then headed up toward the area we were least familiar with.  We first spotted the F W Woolworth storefront from down the street, and initially were confused.  Then we remembered that this Greensboro is THE Greensboro.  It often catches me by surprise that I live in an area so steeped in history.  It shouldn't, really.  I come from Washington DC, which boasts current, or former, or old, headline-making locations around every turn.  But now, for me, North Carolina is just home.  We even commented that Duke University, to us, is just a nuisance that brings strangers and traffic to our down town.  Not that it's DUKE UNIVERSITY.  But here, right in front of us, is the -- THE -- Woolworth's.  Although not the first sit-in (there were some sit-ins as early as 1942), the Greensboro sit-in sparked a series of demonstrations that led to significant changes in public segregation.  I am happy to report that most of the violence associated with the sit-in demonstrations didn't happen in North Carolina, as I discovered later.  But as Bill and I stood in front of the Greensboro Woolworth's, I had in my mind the images of the violent protests and the courage of those who stood -- or sat -- for their rights.  We can draw our own strength from those who have been strong before us.  If four men can sit at a Woolworth's counter in 1960, not knowing how they will personally come out of it, but confident they can make real change happen in their country, then we can be assured we are capable of great things.  I am also pleased with Greensboro that they left the storefront intact -- it is now a civil rights museum -- right there in their downtown shopping district.  They are not hiding their history, closeting it away as something that happened "before," or something inconsequential now that things are "better."  No, they have kept the storefront--which wraps around the corner and is intact in its entirety--an enormous monument to the progress made in that simple gesture of sitting at a lunch counter.  The corner also features recent sculpture installations, my favorite of which is the "Cup of Freedom," depicting the four men at a counter which is shaped like a large coffee cup.  Under it is the "I Have a Dream" quote from Reverend Dr. King.  

But then Bill made the switch of that day, from being a fantastic husband, to being the world's most excellent husband, when he pulled out front row, center tickets to a local playhouse showing of the now-sold-out Snow Queen.  Based loosely on the Hans Christian Andersen story, this play was commissioned for the Triad Stage on Elm Street in Greensboro, and featured amazing music from a well-known local bluegrass artist, Laurelyn Dossett.  The play is set in Appalachia and tells the story of a brave young girl who sets off in the snow-covered winter to rescue her best friend from the Snow Queen.  Our seats put us just a few feet--and in a few cases, mere inches--from the actors on the stage.  The music was amazing, the costumes were unbelievable, and the whole production left us speechless with delight.  We met Miss Dossett afterwards, and she was happy to sign our CD with a "Happy Anniversary" message, and throughout the weekend we would steer the conversation back to how amazing that experience was.  If it hadn't been sold out, I would have texted everyone to run to Greensboro to catch the last show.

We then ate dinner at the delicious Mark's Restaurant, and then a quick tour of the area to look at Christmas lights.  Greensboro has a delightful Christmas light tradition, which I am aware is spreading to a neighborhood in downtown Durham.  The home-owners make chicken-wire balls wrapped in colorful lights, and then in a series of steps using a potato gun, rope, and extension cords, they hang the balls way way way WAY up in the trees.  The beauty is in the multitudes, and in the neighborhoods we drove through, there were hundreds of colorful balls hanging over our heads and stretching in sequence for miles.  Not only magical and beautiful, but also undeniably a community event, with people walking through the streets, cars rolling slowly, and the obvious cooperation of scores--even hundreds-- of neighbors.  Durham has started this fun tradition, and I am looking forward to watching it grow in coming years.

So that was out anniversary celebration -- absolutely perfect!!

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