The Road to Wisdom

When our son was six and our daughter was two my family moved. We moved over the mountain from a place I will call Oz. You know the Oz of which I speak, just follow the yellow brick road. I lived there for twelve years and the ‘keeping up with the Jones’ mentality and HOA’s were only a few of the reasons we left ten years ago. Some friends of ours had preceded us here to Clarke County and when I came out to visit them I felt like I had taken a step back in time. They joked that it was Virginia’s best kept secret, but to me it was no joke. People here actually looked you in the face and smiled as you passed them on the sidewalk, they even held doors for each other. Those niceties had faded from Oz long ago. Now in Oz you are lucky to get through the queue at the local coffee franchise without being blatantly ignored or sneered at, and the customers are even worse. One of the biggest reasons we wanted to move was because of our children. We wanted a life in a real community, to raise them in a less materialistic place with a less frenetic pace.


While there are wealthy families here, it isn’t as blatantly obvious as in Oz. There, it’s an in-your-face kind of obvious and they like it that way. Here it’s more of the landed gentry type. We have a friend here that wears a tweed jacket with the leather elbows and a tweed cap, AND IT TOTALLY SUITS HIM, but I digress. Our friends here are all different socioeconomic levels, some lower than us as well as many higher. So, our children have an honest-to-God perspective of what it’s like being a middle-class family, albeit on the lower side of that than a few years ago. I’ve told my kids that even if we were rich they still wouldn’t get all they ask for because I feel that if you are handed everything, you appreciate very little.


So, yesterday, my son brought up the subject of his getting a car and as he’s speaking to me I see insurance premiums of astronomical proportions dancing through my head, not to mention deer and cows bounding across the road like some sort of Disney horror movie. As I pull my attention back to my son and the actual words coming out of his mouth, I hear him say that he wants to get a job to pay for his insurance and if he pays for half of his (used) car, would we please pay for half and all manner of mature and responsible things. Suddenly I’m hearing the choir music that accompanies good-parenting moments for me…. ok, and the times my husband says, “You’re right.” (I’m sorry, I was raised in the sixties and those cartoons left their mark). Seriously though, I was proud him for being so responsible and I told him so. I couldn’t help but wonder if this conversation would be the same if all those years ago we hadn’t moved away from the land of entitlement and all things glittery. Then I told him, we can talk about it further AFTER you are a licensed driver and I love you dearly but I’m not taking you to DMV for the third time for your learner’s, it’s your dad’s turn.


  1. Passing_Through says:

    What a fabulos read…Kudos Laura…I laughed out loud or as our kids would say “lol” at the remarks about the cows and deer and driving. Great reminder to what we’re not missing having moved away from Oz and of what we’ve built for our children having done so….

  2. sargewillis says:

    Been There, done that, but Laura, you were able to put it down on paper so much better then I ever could. Thanks.

  3. Laura Stevens says:

    Thank you kindly, sarge. I love this county and I’m happy to give my children something I never had, roots in a real community.

  4. livein22611 says:

    You moved from Oz to Mayberry and it was the best thing you could have done for your family. Even with our battles over conservation easements and no chain stores it’s still the best place to raise a family.

  5. sargewillis says:

    I agree it is a great place to raise a family, even with the commute to DC I endure I am glad we brought our 3 kids here over 25 years ago. The only problem,, there isn’t anything for them in CC after they grow up.

  6. Bville-Bud says:

    Very nice Laura! Clarke might not be perfect, but I sure love living here with so many of my friends. I kind of view Clarke County like I look at my wife; reality may be that Clarke is not the most beautiful and welcoming place on God’s green earth, but it sure looks that way through my eyes. Thanks again for your article.

  7. been here a long time says:

    I have lived here for almost 50 years. Thru to the 60’s with all the problems with civil rights, Vietnam war, etc. Yes, Clarke is not perfect but I have yet to find somewhere that is better. With God’s grace, I’ll die here where I have been the happiest. Unhappy with Clarke County, Get out and make the county better, just don’t complain about the problems, volunteer, get elected to office. Or possibly find somewhere else that better suits you and your lifestyle. Very few places don’t come with problems of some type. Thank you Laura for seeing who we are here and what we can become.

  8. Thank you all for the kind words. I’ve lived on the east coast, west coast, north and south, Europe and a summer in Peru all before turning 18. After graduating high school I moved to Hawaii for 4 years and then back to Virginia. I’ve lived in Reston, Herndon, Countryside, Leesburg (can see the pattern?) finally settling here. I loved Hawaii and never took the beauty there for granted but I missed the seasons. Clarke County has beauty in every season and maybe it’s my Welsh/Irish blood but I never get tired of the rolling hills and stacked rock walls. I don’t worry about the political squabbling here, it’s more of a family bickering than the back-stabbing, slander happening inside the beltway.
    This community reminds me of my hundred year old house. Any changes require careful consideration and are usually costly and its a little quirky but rich in history. I wouldn’t trade my house or the friendships I’ve made here for anything.

  9. Great little article! I’m a true Clarke County “native” and I have to say that it was very refreshing to read that you are still happy with the way of life on this side of the mountain! Also, kudos to you and your husband for making the move at a time when your children would get the most from a small town atmosphere. Although you may be wondering if your conversation with your son would have been the same, I’m thinking that “yes!” it would have been! Living here in Clarke County has many perks but I think that your obvious good parenting skills would have prevailed anywhere! Congratulations…. and welcome to Clarke County! 🙂

  10. Thank you, Kim! I still have friends in Oz and the frenzy for more, bigger, better just goes on and on. I hear about it all. The new cars that seem to be standard issue with a driver’s license. The visa cards so that the kids can order dinner because the parents won’t be home until late. The thousand dollar prom dresses. The hotel rooms paid for by parents for after prom parties.
    I would not have raised my children any differently had we stayed there but I guess the reason I wondered if the conversation would have been different is the totally skewed perspective my children would have had, had they been raised there. They would see all this glitter and entitlement showered on their friends by their parents and who knows, may have felt bitter towards us for not having some of it. All I can say is, I’m happy to be here!