It’s Friday night and I’ve actually decided to just stay home. But, I am doing something I try to do each Friday night — even for only a short time — listen to the Hillsboro Indians football game streaming live.
And tonight’s game is symbolic of the last fives years for me — Hillsboro vs. Wilmington.
Now, for regular readers of my column you know we technically lived in Clinton County. We enjoyed spending time in Wilmington with the friends we had made, had great neighbors, and lived in a friendly community.
But, we were Hillsboro people. I worked at Hillsboro High School. My wife worked for Hillsboro Schools for a couple of years. We went to church in Hillsboro. Our daughter started preschool in Hillsboro. We had family and many friends in Hillsboro. When we needed something we went to Hillsboro. We we part of the community. If we had stayed we would have moved to Hillsboro.
Leaving was difficult — not just physically (see the last column which detailed the story of the moving odyssey) but emotionally as well.
When we first moved to the area we lived in Hillsboro with my wife’s sister and her family. Once we found a home, even though it wasn’t in Hillsboro, we knew we would still spend most of our time there. The place quickly grew on us. And even though I was a city boy, the small town really spoke to me.
It started at church. We knew we wanted to join a church family and we quickly found that at Hillsboro First UMC. From day one we were welcomed with open arms, warm hearts and smiling faces.
I spent a year as a full-time employee of the church as Discipleship Coordinator. My wife served as the Chairwoman of the preschool board. I served in various capacities including the Leadership Council. I was a constant stand-in as Liturgist and even, believe it or not, once as the substitute preacher. Our children were both baptized in the church. Our babysitter (third grandmother, really) was our Godsend from the church. We spent many, many wonderful hours inside that church.
On our last Sunday the pastor made a quick announcement that we were leaving. I couldn’t help but burst into tears while sitting in the pew. My wife followed suit. That church meant — means — a lot to us.
Hillsboro was the home of my wife’s paternal grandparents and her sister’s family had made it their home. So, it was a natural fit. Just about anyone with the surname of “Vance” is somehow related to my wife. Small-town life.
We created friendships that will last for a lifetime. Got to know people who we never would have thought we would cross paths with — farmers, teachers, blue collar, white collar, retired, unemployed. We couldn’t go to the store without seeing someone we knew and a “quick trip” to the grocery took two hours with the conversations that started cart-to-cart.
Our children had their cousins near and they were making friends at church and school. Family outings were always part of a regular routine. It felt like home.
As we started to tell family and friends that we were leaving there were more tears.
Then there was school. While this was difficult for both my wife and me, I can say with some confidence that it was most difficult on me. Now, my wife’s fellow teachers got her a cake that said “You are dead to us!” They took her leaving down the humorous route. And her students were elementary aged so it wasn’t that big of a deal.
My high school students were a different story.
When word finally got out that I wasn’t returning the news was met with anger, disbelief, and tears. Students came running to my room to ask if what they had heard was true. “Yes”, I said, “I’m not coming back next year.” The students didn’t know it at the time, but during all the conversations in the last days of school it took everything I had not to cry.
The entire time I lived in Hillsboro I worked with young people either in church or school. I had directed plays, taken students on field trips, chaperoned dances, organized clubs, written college recommendations, answered messages in the middle of the night to help with “problems”, dressed up during “Spirit Week”, been there for students who needed to vent, get advice or cry, and watched students walk into their future at graduation.
Some of those students I had in youth group and at school. Some of those students I had every year they were in high school, but now I wouldn’t be there for their senior year. Some students I had when I was a substitute in the 5th grade and now they were juniors.
Leaving my students was the most difficult part of all. That moved me to tears more than anything. I don’t know if the knew that, but it’s true.
It was also a good lesson to those young people — there are times when you have to make hard decisions, decisions that make you leak a salty discharge from your eyes, but decisions that are best for you and your family. That is what we were doing.
At least in a world of social media and I can keep in touch with my hundreds of other “kids”. Those “kids” that brought me to tears.
Life is good where we’ve landed. Marysville is a great community. My wife loves the school system and her job. My daughter loves her new school. My new job is giving us more opportunity than we ever dreamed. My mom gets to spend her days with her “grandbabies.” We have found a new church home. I’ve started to volunteer with the youth group. We are slowly getting to know people. We have family close by.
While change can sometimes bring you to tears those tears are only temporary. Hillsboro and Wilmington will always have a place in our hearts. We thank you for letting us be part of your community, even if only for a short time. The impression you left is everlasting.
And don’t worry folks, I’ll keep on writing …
Jarrod Weiss recently moved from Clinton County to Marysville.