This weekend my family explored Shepherdstown, WV. It has a wonderfully eclectic vibe that is a mixture of southern charm and northern academia. The town itself claims to be the oldest town in West Virginia, but it’s also the home of a small, liberal arts college and, as such, has cultivated an artsy, somewhat progressive business district. The “business district” seems to mostly be located in historic downtown on German Street, and off the main drag are several churches and graveyards which I took the time to explore. I loved the architecture I found. Most of the buildings were of older construction or historic. One business was the site of a civil war hospital. There was brick and decorative molding galore and lots of white paint and pretty flowers lined the streets.
Though parking is an adventure, the downtown area is very welcoming. (I seriously haven’t parallel parked since I finally passed my driver’s test at 18, and there seems to be nothing but parallel.) Recycling bins are everywhere along the street, quaint businesses sell locally made and sourced products, and there was even a farmer’s market located behind the small library. I was entertained to see a couple of tattoo parlors squeezed in amongst all the eateries (which ranged from cafés to upscale). The library is small but interesting because it is a repurposed old brick firehouse. Walking the street early Sunday morning I passed people with their yoga matts, friendly joggers who were more than happy to wave, and old men reading their newspapers who were delighted to tell me where they thought the best coffee in town was (Mellow Moods got several votes, and I have to say I agreed. More on that later.) The businesses themselves seemed to view the sidewalk as an extension of their space, filling it with sign boards, tables, and merchandise. At times that made for cramped walking during busy hours, forcing me a bit closer to strangers than I generally prefer, but more often than not these interactions were ones of laughter and smiles and excuse me’s.
Overall, everyone I met was exceptionally friendly. I can rarely say this, but I didn’t have a single negative interaction with even one person, either in a business or on the street. I would visit this town again in a heartbeat.
Most of the activities we ran down to do while we were in town were of the family friendly variety, since I have a two and three year old. On Saturday, we went to a ducky race. I wasn’t sure what that was, and as it turns out it is exactly what it sounds like. Numbered ducks were tossed into a small stream, and the first, second, and third place winners won a cash prize. We bought five tickets (Yay, family friendly gambling!) because the proceeds went to Good Shepherd Caregivers. It’s an organization that provides all sorts of needed services for free to seniors. As we walked the streets, now lined with ducky balloons, predictably my children both had huge melt downs because they wanted those duckies more than they wanted to breathe, so we spent several (twenty) minutes trying to explain to them why Daddy absolutely wasn’t allowed to remove decorations and take them along with us. A kindly older gentlemen stopped by to assure my daughters they could have one after the race, and that put an end to the tears, but not the trembling lips, and we were able to move on with our outing. (That man earned my eternal love, by the way.) Near the ducky race stream was a tiny house that kids could go into. It was a strange, small thing, an actual from the foundations up home filled with tiny furniture. My kids loved it, but they were only allowed inside for about ten minutes and then weren’t allowed back inside when their time was up even though there were no other children around.
That caused more tears and tantrums and made me hate the person in charge of the house a wee bit (Seriously, there were no other kids. I guess rules are rules), but I behaved myself and was pleasant and chit chatted with the man anyway. We decided to distract the kids from the loss of the only toy they never knew they wanted by taking them to get their faces painted. Well, while this was happening, we got to see the duckies dropped into the water, but we sort of missed the race, which I hadn’t anticipated, and my oldest daughter had yet another tantrum when she found out. Oh, the joys of being a parent. Our duckies didn’t win either, which she was sorely disappointed in, but while I was dabbing yet more tears (please tell me they grow out of this at some point) that kindly old man from before did, indeed, present both of my daughters with balloons.
It was love. Love at first sight. They were squealing little balls of joy. I could have kissed that man (though I didn’t). We walked around a bit more and were considering trying our luck at a restaurant with the kids when tragedy struck and one of the duckies was lost to the great beyond. I don’t normally buy balloons for that reason, they’re bad for the environment, and as I was watching that balloon float away with a huge sense of guilt settling on my shoulders and my daughter once again in tears, we decided we’d had enough of the 90 degree weather, surrendered, and went back to our hotel to eat dinner in their mediocre restaurant and take advantage of the pool.
Thankfully, my mother-in-law took pity on my partner and me and said she’d watch the kids so we could enjoy a romantic-ish dinner out alone, which is exactly what we did with a spring in our step and joy in our hearts. We went to the Blue Moon, which I will be more than happy to review tomorrow because it was absolutely delightful in all the right ways.
Check out my book Threefold Love.