Thanks Giving

Thanks Giving

Thanks Giving

November. Pennsylvania. Cold. Grey. Snow. Seems like a great time to go into ourselves and hibernate. But right at this time, when the summer and all those gatherings are far enough in the past to be memories and the new flush of fall has dissipated, we are jostled again by the holiday season. Here we come a-wassailing.

This is the first year that Matt and I have owned a New Wilmington-based business. In the months we’ve spent as owners of The Tavern, we have been invited to many meetings and events in town that have shared the common goal of lifting this place up. Doing more. Offering more. Improving. Revitalization is a buzz word around here. And we are thrilled to be a part of it. 

Yet, it is cold. It’s dark in town at night. The shop-owner’s lights are on and they are looking out their windows for the brave, the warm of heart.

The kids and I walked to Gilliland’s Market for hot dogs last night. Matt and I had a dinner meeting about building our Tavern Team and our beloved go-to girl, Emma makes octopus dogs and mac n-cheese when mom and dad are out.

We rushed through the door of the tiny corner market and were greeted by Cindy, warm, friendly and supportive. I rushed through the store picking up the little things we needed while the kids stayed at the front working the 25 cent toy & candy stand under Cindy’s care. It’s still like that in some parts of the world. Community. Trust.

We complimented the gorgeous window boxes that seem to keep giving life to Market Street  despite the frost and were told that a favorite greenhouse puts them together for Gilliland’s. Set’s my mind humming, ‘Need to get in touch with Andy Byler at Pine Hill to see if he’ll do that for The Tavern.’ Life. Beauty. Community.

We pass the The Pointe building and look inside to see our hard-at-work Mayor, Sheri Babb sitting with our favorite banker, Trey Skalos. He’s leading a meeting about the new Small Business Association. There are a dozen small business leaders sitting around the large table. Half are Amish. We wave hello and a bearded man in the ubiquitous blue shirt sees us and waves back despite the deepening dusk outside. Community. Kinship. Care. Service.

We need to make it home. Emma will be there any minute and I haven’t even showered, yet. Mom-life. But we are about to pass Small Circle Books and I know I’ll get trapped. Not that Joani is a spider, but her web of books, it pulls me in almost every time and I climb deeper into the store looking at titles that seem to beg me to find a comfortable seat and begin a journey.

Small Circle Bookstore. New Wilmington, Pennsylvania.

Small Circle Bookstore. New Wilmington, Pennsylvania.

The new bookstore is decorated for Christmas and the kids see fake snow on the sills inside and shout, ‘Can we go in?’ My ‘no’ muscles are strong being more than 7 years into mothering but it’s hard to say no to books. We go in and I find a first edition for a Christmas present. We shoot the breeze while Joani sits on the couch and rings me up. She tells me about her discoveries. It turns out Small Circle is also an inadvertent rare book dealer, with donations from personal libraries that have housed secret treasures for years. These books have been donated, given away to this mother and daughter team who recently moved to New Wilmington and wanted to serve their new community with this used book store and gathering space. We discuss Thanksgiving plans, she says she’ll join us. Friendship. Discovery. Open doors.

We’re on our way and hustling now. We pass Rebecca’s Salon. The lights are on and I can just make out the accessories on the receptionist’s countertop. Mind starts again, ‘I’ve always loved those skinny bracelets.’ My mental window shopping is interrupted by the owner of the new Inn on Market shouting hello from her open car window. We shout our hello’s back and pass the Inn. Lights on. There must be someone staying in the front room. Shiny wood. Dark walls. Cozy. I wonder if they are watching television. Will they go out tonight?

The Inn on Market. New Wilmington, Pennsylvania.

The Inn on Market. New Wilmington, Pennsylvania.

Westminster’s campus is lit. Looks like a Christmas card. How fun it was to see the quad full of movie crew and cameras last year, there to film The Pale Blue Eye. Next time Christian Bale comes to New Wilmington, we’ll serve him at The Tavern.

Home now. Hugs for Emma. She’s brought a variety of treats she baked from a big pumpkin roasting session. She’s that type. Why bake one kind of cookie when you’ve got all the ingredients out to make another? Emma took a gap year in 2021 and asked if she could cook with me. I think the home-cooking ‘apprenticeship’ served me more than it served Emma. She turned my culinary engines back on and we even took some jobs together. Now she is my go-to girl. Babysitter. Culinary assistant. Photographer. Fellow forager. Friend. Family. Neighbor. Community.

This place is so rich. When we moved here, it was for the house. The world shut down just after we closed on it. We didn’t expect much from this place nor were we seeking much. But since the world has re-opened, since we decided to do our part in turning lights back on, we have received so much more than we ever expected or imagined.

We are deep into this web. The old house brought us in. The people draw us out.

What I am describing may sound insular, but I know those who are looking for it will see that New Wilmington, though very special, is not unique in its ability to elicit community, trust and kinship out of its residents. It helps, maybe that it is small. It is easy to know and be known here. Intimacy. The second thing we have is a living example of sacrifice. It seems that everything the Amish do is in sacrifice to their community. Why do they drive a horse-pulled buggy? Why don’t they have electricity in their homes? The choices are thought provoking, even confusing to us outsiders, but the sacrifice is clear and their community is strong. Service. Self-less. The third part of this pyramid is need. This town still has empty storefronts. But the empty spots along Market Street have so much potential that it inspires the creative and energizes the industrious. ‘For sale’ signs are going away and ‘coming soon’ signs are replacing them. The glass is half full here.

New Wilmington, Pennsylvania.

New Wilmington, Pennsylvania.

Intimacy, selflessness and need are not trademarked by small towns. But it is an illuminating experience to visit one, a real country town. They still exist. And we are learning so much from ours. What we do has influence. How we treat each other matters. Doing something hard makes us stronger. What we do with the land we live on matters. What we say, the choices we make and simply the greetings and goodbyes we give, they are mortar to the community, stronger than the structures that surround us.

In this season where giving thanks is part of our daily messaging, we give a heartfelt and sincere thank you to the generous, welcoming, kind community we have found in New Wilmington. And we are grateful God lead us here and made our purpose so clear. We all have purpose, and discovering what that is on a daily basis is the stuff of life. To serve. Community. To gather. Together.

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