by Jennie Spallone
When I decided to move my husband, son and three dogs halfway across the country, I never expected Greensboro would be my landing pad. Heck, I didn’t even know how to spell it! To me, Greensboro was a mere dot on a map of southeastern states that boasted warm weather, four seasons, low property taxes, and two lifelong friends from my hometown of Chicago.
My family railed against my moving efforts as if I’d booked them on the Titanic. “I feel your pain,” I responded, mimicking the same degree of emotion President Bill Clinton used when he mouthed that sentiment 20 years ago. Like him, they were just going to have to trust me.
Two of our Chicago friends had moved to Greensboro, and two to Charlotte within the last 15 years. Janice and Dick, our Charlotte friends, provided a delectable menu of what life looked like in their neck of the woods: Two temples on one campus, a Jewish Community Center, and four outdoor pool and indoor pools. I love to swim! They also mentioned Raleigh and Columbia, SC. I painstakingly plotted Greensboro, Charlotte, Raleigh and Columbia on a map. I spent hours online, researching what goodies (or you can use amenities) each area had to offer. Hubby was happy to review my research as long as I confirmed I’d be flying solo. My younger daughter wanted us to stay in Chicago, but it was rare — and expensive — to find a townhouse complex that allowed three dogs. Besides, staying in Chicago wouldn’t solve our problems.
My hubby had just retired from driving a school bus. His nephrologist suggested we ditch our 2,600 square-foot, three-story home and move to a one-story townhouse in a snow-free climate. My plan was to say goodbye to my real estate career and restart the special-education tutoring service I’d operated in Chicago for eight years.
Juggling all the pieces of my visit to North Carolina was grueling. I struggled to guestimate what time I’d arrive in each area so I could book hotels. Mel Kriegsman, my Greensboro real estate broker, said I was crazy to visit such a large geographic area and meet with three different realtors in a span of four days. But when he saw I was resolute, he counseled me to “just work the plan.”
Those four days in the Carolinas were intense. Every night on the phone, my husband would calm me down. “It’s all good, wherever you decide.” I finally ruled out Charlotte as “too spread out,” Raleigh as “too expensive,” and Columbia as “too transient.” Greensboro was candyland! Yes, Cassandra, the laws your legislature focus on makes one question the sanity of those involved. There are more homeless folks begging on local street corners than there ever was in the suburbs of Chicago. And one out of five children goes to bed hungry each night in Guilford County.
Yet, Greensboro is still candyland to me. Why?
Numerous community groups come together to problem-solve homelessness, poverty and political and civil rights issues. Temples and churches work together to promote economic justice.
Temple Emanuel Membership Director Brenda Henley enabled my husband and I to join the congregation at a reduced rate and participate in a wealth of activities that we never thought possible. Only five months into our membership, Rabbi Fred Guttman reached out to a temple in Jacksonville, Fla. and secured a rabbi to preside over my oldest daughter’s interfaith marriage.
On the lighter side, Greensboro offers meetup.com groups for everyone from spiritual enthusiasts who thrive on yoga and meditation to adventurers who crave zip-lining and whitewater rafting. Hubby and I enjoyed the Triad over 40s twice-monthly dinners at (I can’t remember the name of the restaurant that is off of Spring Garden, lower level, is next to tracks, and had performers and vendors last year), Halloween and New Year’s Eve parties. There’s live theater to experience. A few months ago, hubby and I signed up to volunteer at Triad Stage and the Carolina Theatre. Distributing theater bills and working the concession stand is a fun activity we enjoyed doing in Chicago because we got to see plays, concerts, dance performances and independent movies for free.
Another new favorite activity of mine is participating in open mic at Scuppernong Books, Greensboro’s independent bookstore, where I join other authors to read excerpts from our novels. I also frequent Sisters in Crime in High Point, which hosts monthly “how to” workshops for both new and experienced writers.
My rendition wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the potpourri of Toastmasters Clubs we have in Greensboro and High Point. I’m area director of four of these clubs, which enable both newbie and advanced speakers to achieve their business and social communication goals. Although I already can yack up a storm, I eventually plan to be a motivational speaker.
There are art galleries, music concerts, parks, libraries, a plentiful number of colleges and an evolving downtown area. For all these reasons and so many more, thank you Greensboro for welcoming my husband and me into your community with open arms!
Wait; I do have one question. Do you guys have a real newspaper like the Chicago Tribune? A newspaper with in-depth local, national and international news? Yeah, I get it. Another time, another article….
Jennie Spallone was a Chicago freelance journalist for local and national newspapers and magazines. She is the author of three mystery novels. She looks forward to writing more articles for Triad City Beat! Find her at jenniespallone.com.