When we found out we were moving to Small Town, Virginia in 2008, we ran across a number of friends who had connections to the area through school, work, or family. We enthusiastically sought their advice on a church, a liveable neighborhood, a job connection ... and came up with nothing.
"Really ... all the neighborhoods are great. Some have more undergrads than others, but really ... you'll be fine."
"There are a ton of churches. You'll find one."
"Yeah, the guy I used to work for isn't there anymore. I think he moved."
The one favorable response we kept getting over and over was about places to eat. Or, should I say, a place to eat: Carol Lee Donuts. I remember at least six different people telling us about this shop, a little out of town, that deserved our attention. I also remember thinking that if the only thing this town had going for it was donuts, it was going to be a long time before I fell in love with the place.
I can't remember why, but we didn't try it out for a few months. We were busy, I guess, and overwhelmed. And learning how to live life as quasi-transitory student-adults. But then, winter rolled around and we got some snow. Like any good adventurer, Mr. Rhymeswithsmile saw that as his opportunity to jump in the car and go for a drive. He drove on curvy back roads that popped him out right next to Carol Lee Donuts, and ended up the gleeful recipient of about 2 dozen donuts for free thanks to a very kind Carol and a lack of cash. He showed up at home with said amount of deliciousness ... and we hopped back in the car to make deliveries. A tradition was born: first snow = deliveries of donuts to friends.
Fast forward a few years to pregnancy ... and cravings. All I wanted, any time anyone would ask if I had fantasies about food, was donuts. And not just any donuts ... Carol Lee donuts. I actually didn't eat that many ... I just enjoyed craving them for some reason. The Mr. occasionally indulged my craziness ... as did a few other thoughtful friends. When I went into labor, I gave my parents one very important baby-related task: show up at the hospital with at least two dozen donuts after the baby is born. One dozen for me - and one dozen for the sweet nurses who took care of us. It seemed fitting somehow that the one thing I had craved while pregnant was the celebratory meal to share with those who helped bring our first baby into our lives.
Months since that baby have flown by, and we've found ourselves plunged into the next step. Expecting another little one, finished with graduate school, and moved out of a house that saw our joy and tears for four years. And yes, we moved out after sharing a dozen Carol Lee donuts with dear friends ... and carried another half-dozen across state lines as we closed that sweet chapter of our lives.
I am proud to say that I am now one of those folks who have had connections to that small town. If you ask me about a church to attend, I will give you specifics. Question me on a neighborhood to live in, and I will unequivocally state that you should live within a certain proximity to Kroger and a golf course, with almost-immediate access to the library, the valley, and berry picking. And finally, if you want to know how to dig into a community, I will point you towards the unassuming shop front of Carol Lee Donuts, just across the street from Food Lion. It never hurts to show up with a dozen ...