Our house was built in 1929. The wood floors creak. The staircase to my office is deadly in heels, and I tell people there’s a friendly banshee in the basement. In the backyard, a child once requested a swing be hung from a tree; a parent once acquiesced. There’s even a tree with dark purple leaves outside that I can climb barefoot all the way to the top.
Saturday night, I heard a skunk talking to himself on the sidewalk; last nigh, I heard cats having sex in the neighbor’s yard—neighbors who, without knowing my face or name, brought beer over to welcome us to town. Today, the air is wet and smells of rain. We sleep with the windows open under a comforter knit by Grandma Dobie.
Welcome to Chardon, Ohio.
After a four-day trek from Phoenix that felt akin to crossing the deserts of hell, Jake and I arrived in Ohio tired, near hysterical, with two dogs who looked ready to commit parricide. It took two days to unpack, because our twin U-Hauls ended up being the travel equivalent of Mary Poppins’ bag: endless and containing mysterious items we don’t remember packing or, frankly, ever seeing in our lives.
Once settled, we realized we lived on a little street with pretty, historic homes, much older than ours. Chardon’s downtown square is within walking distance, cheerful in its quiet quaintness of coffee houses, restaurants, and antique shops.
Approximately 5,000 people call Chardon home. There’s a Fall Fest where people get together to walk around and look at red, orange, and yellow trees and carve pumpkins. There’s a December lighting ceremony that turns the downtown square into a snowy, twinkle-filled wonderland. The Geauga County Maple Fest is the big deal in April, because yes, in Chardon, people make their own maple syrup, caught by tying metal buckets to the sides of Maple trees in winter.
There’s an apple orchard nearby. There’s a restaurant downtown called Square Bistro, whose chef was once a chef in the Biltmore area of Phoenix. (Small world.) A local cottage serves afternoon tea to passers-by. There is a known “sledding hill” where everyone goes every snow day. Speaking of snow, during WinterFest, a horse-drawn carriage circles the Chardon Square while artists carve ice sculptures.
One local lady said, “I love living here. I love not having to lock my car door.” When I was at the grocery yesterday, the deli lady was busy and apologetic, and a middle-aged lady told her, “Take as long as you need,” and stood there, smiling.
When Raylan (our rambunctious pup) accidentally ate rat poison on Saturday, I ran into my front yard and shouted to see if anyone had hydrogen peroxide to make him hurl. A neighbor rushed to his rescue from across the street.
Have I moved to some strange, perfect place where aliens are taking over the population, or did I just forget what it’s like living in the rural Midwest? More research required.
At the moment, it’s still hard to believe we’re really here. Jake started his new job yesterday. Our friend, Heather, brought over a basket of “Welcome to Chardon” goodies, including local honey, local maple syrup, local pie … you get the idea.
I have Internet, so I suppose that means we really do live here, surrounded by green trees and a pink rosebush next to the front porch.
If I could look at a map, I know there would be a red X with the words “YOU ARE HERE,” but this peaceful, beautiful place is almost too good to be true—not to mention my beloved family is only two hours away, which I never in my wildest dreams thought would happen again.
It’s like the Twilight Zone, this stormy day, scented by wet leaves and moss, as I sit and write in the creaky, old house I’ve always wanted and never quite knew I wanted. It’s quiet. The dogs snore nearby and cuddle close at night.
Welcome to Chardon.
The town, the trees, the people shout the words until Heaven responds and gives me rain.