From the moment that I crossed over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, I knew my life would change. The hustle and bustle of big city life would become a distant memory as we drove down the interstate to our new life and home. The drive to Leesburg was long, but well worth it. The moment we entered Leesburg, I knew that this would be my new home. Although it was late in the evening and our drive was exhausting, I begged my father to drive around the town. As we drove around I could hear it whispering in the wind, “Welcome home, Ashlee. We are glad you found us.”
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I grew up in a suburb of the Washington, DC metro area. We lived in your average middle class neighborhood with a variety of people from various backgrounds. Our homes were close enough that you could reach out your window and hand your neighbor a cup of sugar. We did have rural areas where I lived, but they were few and far between. I moved to Georgia in the 7th grade. The new experience, people, teachers, school, and environment changed my life. We experienced changes that we took for granted in the metropolitan area. Our cellphone service did not work at our new house, and we only had dial up internet service. My first thought was that I had moved to a backward area without all the modern day conveniences. I never thought that this small two traffic light town would make me truly understand the meaning of the word home, but it has in so many ways. Growing up in Lee County has helped me to realize that there is more to life than the things that you can see, and my faith in God has been rejuvenated.
Our home is nestled in a pecan grove. We have a pond in our back yard, and abundant wild life visits our area frequently. Sometimes we even have unwelcomed visitors like alligators and snakes which can make the day interesting. Our neighborhood consists of homes with gardens that hold collections of assorted flowers and trees from magnolias to dogwoods. In the evenings, neighbors sit on their porches in rocking chairs sipping afternoon teas or take a relaxing stroll around our community. We have a garden and fruit trees to raise our own produce. The air is clean and fresh and you actually enjoy being outside; except for the gnats. This is a different world than the hustle and bustle of a metropolitan area, and I would not change my life right now for anything. This is the life that country songs are written about.
The hometown atmosphere and rural setting of Leesburg and the surrounding areas help create a welcoming experience to our hidden treasures. Leesburg is strong in American tradition, with a rich Native American history, hometown pride, religion, and patriotism. These are values that are taken seriously in my hometown. Spring afternoons watching local children playing baseball, crisp fall Friday nights cheering on our local high school football team, and Sunday morning church service, are all things that make us small town proud. Lee County is haven to large plantations with driveway canopies of Live Oak trees, covered with draping Spanish Moss, leading the path to their welcoming lodges. As one slowly drives up the entrance of these inviting plantations the views of the rolling plains and lush green pastures are reminiscent of times gone by. These bring to mind the classic novel of “Gone With The Wind.” The rolling hills, wooded lands and swamps of Lee County are rich with childhood memories and deeply rooted with ancestral trails. Our outdoor paradise is envied by many. Our lakes and creeks are abundant with fish as well as our woodlands alive with wildlife. This landscape attracts people from all over to experience our culture. They can even enjoy a traditional southern quail hunt. Our fertile soil creates snow fields of white cotton in bloom and the fields of green wheat blowing in a strong late summer breeze move like water waves.
Sometimes, I wish my friends from the north could just come down here and relax and enjoy the sweet southern smell of summer, the peacefulness and beauty that surrounds me. Looking up in the sky to watch the crop dusters as they fly over, passing farm machinery on the roads or watching the farmers plow the fields, this is real America to me. It was in the heartland of America, like Leesburg, that the fundamentals of liberty, justice and equality were created. In Leesburg we were taught values, love of family and the love of God. Taking pride in your country is taking pride in the place you choose to live, and I proudly say that Leesburg and Lee County is my home.
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