My husband and I spent one January afternoon lazily watching football at our dear friends’ house somewhere in the middle of North Carolina. Draped across the couch like rag dolls, the crew cheered on whichever team playing we had determined to be the underdogs, ate a lot of junk food, and good-naturedly ribbed one another. It was the kind of day that brought back memories of college days long past, and eventually the conversation turned to that of more simple times when our biggest worries were having a date for Thursday night, homework and grades, whether we had enough money for another pizza, and who was having the next party. “I’d do it all over again,” my friend Laura said with a grin both mischievous and rueful.
Last year was a hard one for her and her husband as they suffered a series of career, financial, health and emotional setbacks. In July she called me with the news that she’d been laid off. I invited her and her husband to my house for a pity party amongst friends. We were fixing drinks in the kitchen when she, who has always been tough as nails, broke into tears and told me that the layoff had come as she and her husband were in the midst of a major health scare. But at that given moment the health worry was not yet public knowledge, and so when our husbands walked into the kitchen with no warning, she instantly brightened her eyes and asked me, “Now where did you get all those blackberries?” Without a second of pause, I launched into telling her about the farm I had passed on the way back from South Carolina, and how it was just a great place for peaches and watermelon too. Our husbands passed through unaware of the depth of our conversation, which was the point—at that given moment it was our conversation, our interaction.
Lately I’ve been paying attention to such little details as these, for it is within tiny moments that one finds the love in his or her life. Love, of course, exists not only between spouses but among friends and family as well. We may think of love as proven by dramatic gestures and expensive gifts like we see in the movies, but that kind of love is for witless romantics and bleeding hearts. Real love is about knowing whether or not someone puts mayonnaise on his or her sandwiches, stays up late or rises early, follows a certain sports team or none at all, or gets quiet when he or she is angry or just when sad. Love is in paying attention to the details.
This issue of Smoky Mountain Living illustrates that the same kind of attention to detail that defines true love also can be found in those who love where they live and what they do. These pages tell the story of loves that are nuanced, complicated, motivating, touching—and above all else, stories of the mountains’ own.