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When my dad moved his large family to Rappahannock County the summer 1973, I remember standing on the bank of our pond and thinking that it was the most perfect place on earth. I swam and fished in the summer, ice skated and went sledding down the big hill out back in the winter.
We enjoyed ice-cold Cokes on Graham Hackleys front porch and relied on Elmer Jenkins to repair our old clunker of a car. On and on and on I could ramble about Rappahannock. It was there I would grow to be a young man, to find my way, to find love, to make and lose friends. I will always consider it a paradise.
As I grew to a young man I briefly left Rappahannock to live elsewhere but would frequently return to spend the weekend with dad. Those times I will always treasure.
Eventually, my job and life experiences would give me the opportunity to travel throughout the United States and visit several countries. Every place I've seen has offered its own view of paradise. Vast oceans, towering palm trees, endless mountain ranges and clear running rivers.
I moved my family away from Rappahannock this December. Much like my dad moved us from Arlington to that old farm house on Rt. 211. I wanted us to explore and experience someplace new.
I am, as I write this, sitting in our new home in down east Maine. If you would have told me that constant freezing temperatures, snow falling every day and perpetually dirty cars would become my new paradise, I would have said you were crazy.
But when I step outside in the morning and breathe the cleanest air I've ever breathed, sit down to dinner and eat fresh, right off the boat seafood, and enjoy the spectacular views that only Maine's bold coast can offer, I realize how much of a paradise our new home is.
In retrospect, anywhere you choose to live can be your paradise as long as you are happy. I hope all of you will find it.
I will miss my Rappahannock and the dear friends I have there. In the words of Winnie the Pooh, “How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”