As a woman who spent most of her living on the beaches of Florida, I had always imagined raising my children in the same sunny location. Although I sent my kids to surf camp and observed manatees off our dock, the every day life of sitting in daily grid lock on the way to school was stressful. Passing strip clubs on the way to church wore on me. I slowly started to become disenchanted with where we were living. Once I started having children and life intervened, trips to the beach became less and less frequent and to be honest, felt more like work. Although we went, it wasn’t weekly or even monthly and I started to think that the daily quality of life I wanted for my children perhaps did not include a paddle board collecting dust. I had a hard time letting go of the feeling that my kids just needed a big yard and a swing set, not a waterfront home.
My husband, a man who grew up on 100 acres of land, felt the same way and it was after my first grader tried sounding out the name of an erotic superstore, did we start the real discussion of finding a more ideal place to raise our seven children. We planned a summer trip to Nashville and started just looking at the area; not really thinking that this move would really happen. It would be a HUGE move for us not only because we’d be leaving the only state that we had family in, but the logistics of moving seven kids and finding schools was just very overwhelming...yet we left Nashville very impressed with the city and its residents and planned to return.
Little did we know, Hurricane Irma would come weeks later and force us into a mandatory evacuation. With the entire state heading north, we found a very kind family on VRBO that rented their home to us while they found other lodging. Their home, that backed up to a horse farm, was located in Franklin, an area I was very familiar with as a country music fan. I knew many celebrities like Luke Bryan, Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood, Tim & Faith and Kenny Chesney all lived in this charming town. Our generous welcome into Tennessee became the catalyst in leaving the beach for the clean, country life I felt my family needed.
Although our rental home was smaller than our home, it felt so much bigger because my kids were outside all day... feeding the horses that came to the fence, playing baseball with their dad on a mini diamond, eating lunch in weather tolerable for toddlers and waiting for the family of deer that walked through the yard after dinner. We shopped in downtown Franklin, visited quaint little decor stores like The Faded Farmhouse, ate amazing blueberry French toast at Merridee's Breadbasket Bakery and signed prayer cards at Philanthropy, a Christian clothing boutique. We visited Liepers Fork, not only home to Justin Timberlake and Chris Stapleton, but also home to Puckett’s, the original grocery store/music stage that local celebrities frequent.
After that visit, we came back to search for homes and attended the Pilgrimage Music Festival, a three day, family friendly, musical jamboree on a farm headlined by Justin Timberlake. By the end of that final trip, we had experienced the kindness of the local residents, saw a community focused on family and faith, heard the variety of music that made Tennessee famous and visited schools surrounded by horse farms and rivers. Needless to say, we purchased a beautiful Southern home shortly thereafter and moved our family over Christmas break.
We moved to the “suburban country,” where neighbors welcomed us with banana bread and the local high school offered an American flag for our front porch. We watched a few days of snow fall and went sledding down a hill for the first time. I hung up a wooden swing on an apple tree in our yard and volunteered at an Easter event for foster care children. I even exchanged a mutual "I'm so sorry" with Luke Bryan's wife in the travel toiletry section at Target after blocking each other in the aisle. My family and I discovered the excitement and fanfare of the Nashville Predators games....amazing theatrics, spirited fans and a game day soundtrack that had me trying to dance, unsuccessfully, with my teenage son in our seats. We spent a Saturday feeding baby goats at a local farm and count horses and cows every day on the way to school...yet we're only 12 minutes to the nearest Target (obviously very important to moms) and 25 minutes from downtown Nashville.
Next month, we’ll be attending the Iroquois Steeplechase, Franklin’s premier spring equestrian event where our entire family will be dressed in our finest seasonal attire and derby hats. We have tickets to the Franklin Hot Air Balloon festival in May and will be attending the Americana Main Street Festival next weekend. Although my husband isn’t aware of all of these yet, we have tickets to Justin Timberlake, the CMA Music Festival, Bonaroo, Beyoncé and the Pilgrimage Music Festival. We’re looking forward to fireflies in the summer, new road trip adventures, a fall with colored leaves and pumpkins that don’t melt in the sun.
Our children have been welcomed into a community where moms driving passenger vans are seen in every car line, where adoptive families of mixed races are found in every school, where our gay friends host farm to table brunches at their ranch after taking their kids to church and where celebrities send their kids to public school.
We took a giant leap of faith in moving to Franklin and my family could not be better for it. This All American town is good for our souls and it’s residents are good for our spirit!