The Short of It:
Favorite item in my house: A giant picture of a tiger that I found for $5 at the Covered Bridge Festival. I love it because it reminds me of Tarzan, our favorite cat we left behind in South Africa. If there was ever a fire, I would grab this. Don’t judge.
What am I reading: What Strange Creatures by Emily Arsenault. Emily and her husband Ross were in the Peace Corps with me. It’s been so cool to get to know her better through the reading of her books. Check her out if you get a chance. This book is good.
What am I listening to: The Bridge School Concerts. I bought the CD secondhand at America’s Groove Record Store in the Effingham mall. I love flipping through his used CDs, vintage kids’ books and vintage men’s clothes. Best song on this album is All That You Have Is Your Soul by Tracy Chapman, followed by David Bowie’s Heroes.
Best Food in Town: Fish tacos from Don Pedro. I order three, rapidly stuff two in my face and save the third for a cold tomorrow’s lunch. Danny's Qik-Sak in Watson has a great Friday night fish fry. Fave drink in town is hands down Joe Sippers Café’s Moroccan Jasmine Green Tea served cold. Divine.
Favorite thing about Effingham: It’s a vibrant place to live, but not too big and the people are good and we look out for one other.
The Long of It:
My grandma died when I was still living in South Africa. Don’t be sad, she lived a wonderful life and got to see age 93. At that time my husband and I were just beginning to contemplate a big move. Be it a move from our rural South African home of Polokwane to Johannesburg, Cape Town or the US - we weren’t yet sure.
Our two kids, Roscoe (9) and Jesse (7), were coming close to school-going age and my husband Rob and I had been living and working in Polokwane for what seemed like long enough. I was placed as a Peace Corps volunteer in that town almost seven years prior and Rob ended up there as a journalist after he moved back to SA from Taiwan. It was time to change scenery from the rural, conservative, mostly agricultural and beautiful South Africa town where we’d been living. Oddly, we ended up in a very similar setting.
When we did pull the trigger and decided to move to the States the idea of moving into my grandma and grandpa’s 1970s brick ranch, which just so happened to be right next door to my parent’s farm, is what kept me going. I hate saying goodbye, especially when moving to another continent, so making this house our home was the prize on which I kept my eye.
As my parents and aunt and uncle cleaned out all of my grandma’s things here in Effingham, Rob and I were going through the seemingly endless and time-draining tasks of getting his visa and getting rid of most of our things.
Long story short, the orange shag carpet got pulled out and my grandparents’ things divvied up; we shipped a small crate of our favorite things home and Rob got his green card. (Yes it is actually green. Yes he can work legally. No he can’t vote. Yes our children have dual citizenship. No they will not have to renounce one citizenship when they get older. That should cover most of those questions.) One loooong journey later and we were here.
I came by my love for old things and reusing things naturally. My mom brought me up going to auctions and flea markets and my dad’s mom (in whose house we now live) had part of the original farmhouse and her basement packed full of antiques and treasures she’d inherited from relatives. She also had tons and tons of recyclables. She lived through the Depression so she kept everything that could be reused and stacked it up in her basement next to her rug loom. Butter dishes, cardboard from frozen pizzas, ice cream pails, spent light bulbs and toilet seats. Yep, toilet seats. The padded kind.
South Africans give virtually all of their old goods to housekeepers, gardeners or nannies; so that meant I couldn’t get my thrift fix there (don’t worry, I developed a fabric fix instead). So I kind of went hog-wild once we got here. The Effingham Goodwill had just opened, my fave thrift store Second Hand Rose relocated to a GIANT space, there were auctions everywhere and I had a lot of time on my hands. I went a little crazy. It seemed that everywhere I looked was something old and awesome and I had to rescue it. I filled our home, our basement, part of my parent’s basement and part of their barn. Then I opened my vintage rental business, The Odd Bin, to help me look less like a hoarder.
Then Salina and I opened Fresh Digs. And somehow I still look like a hoarder, but the paths in my basement are slowly widening.
I didn’t do it all alone, though. I’ve got an entire family of enablers to thank and love. My husband Rob loves old things and many came with us when we moved, along with a lot of art. He also doesn’t mind trawling thrift stores with me. My mom has a great eye, loves an auction and is a genius when it comes to packing a van. My Dad is resident Mr. Fix-It, loader/unloader, man of endless patience and truck supplier. He’s got a vehicle/trailer for any moving job and isn’t afraid to lend them to me. Even the kids have things they look for when we go out – fishing tackle, books, Hot Wheels and anything that looks like a weapon. Together we are a great team and I wouldn’t be anywhere without them. Thank you family. : )
Tytia Habing was one of the first friends I made when we moved back. My friend Andi (who now lives in North Carolina) hooked me up with her. She knew her through what she’d read and seen on Facebook and thought we had a lot in common. I emailed Tytia and asked to meet for coffee, saying that I was stalking her online and thought we had a lot in common. Looking back it was a pretty creepy introduction but happily for us she put on a brave face and met me at Joe Sippers. Our little families have been friends ever since.
And here we are collaborating on this project. It was bound to happen. We both love where we live and want to show it off. And she does it in the most beautiful way. Follow her on FB and see rural life through her eyes. It’s magical. I can’t wait to show you her house. It’s as awesome as she is.
//Next issue: Catherine and John Bailey