Friday, March 2, 2012

Potpourri and Pine: The Roanoke City Market c.1994

Photo by Carrie Forbes, 2010. 
I promise I'll start posting gluten free recipes again soon, after all, I know that's what you stop by for...but I hope you will indulge me and read about a fond memory that I was reminded of last night.

My friend Debbie shared on Facebook last night that one of her recipes  had been printed in a prominent publication by her work. She was SO excited and I was thrilled for her! And for some reason it reminded of when I first realized I loved writing.

I've always been a writer. I have journals that date back from when I was around 7 or 8 years old... but I think I truly realized that I had a love for words in my junior year of high school. I was in an advanced English class with a favorite teacher: Mrs. Harriet Little. She loved my writing, and she loved her students, and that meant so much to me. She truly listened to our thoughts. She encouraged this small class of young college-bound high school girls, and told us we had such an amazing life ahead of us. Her worn silver rings with an aged patina always faced us as she sat with elbows on her desk and fingers inter-laced. With wise brown eyes and always a story to tell she would say "Just wait until you're 35. You will love life. You will finally feel comfortable in your own skin and you will begin to know who you really are." To girls who were barely seventeen... 35 seemed ancient. Yet here I am... on the heels of being 34 this month. I had no idea how valuable her words would turn out to be. Mrs. Little gave us several writing assignments in particular that year that I remember.

The most memorable was a short essay that I wrote in December of 1994 about the Roanoke City Market. I have always loved this market. The smells and sounds. The Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings. Seeing fresh coffee ground at Mill Mountain Coffee & Tea, buying Roald Dahl books at the small local bookstore, visiting the planetarium at the Science Museum, etc... It was all simply remarkable. Mrs. Little loved my essay. I remember her smile as she was reading it. "Carrie, this is REALLY good." She said, with absolute sincerity. Ironically, I think it was when I first started learning how to use a thesaurus very effectively (lol)... but I was proud of that essay too. I loved my description of the market. Mrs. Little suggested I send it in to the Roanoke paper to have it published in the editorials section. I remember a small smile creeping on my face, but I was thinking that wouldn't work. My father worked for the paper at that time. Surely, publishing an essay from his daughter would have been considered  favoritism. Mrs. Little, however, told me to send it anyway. So I did. I didn't tell my Dad about it. I just quietly tucked it in the mailbox and forgot about it.

And then Christmas Eve 1994 came. We were on vacation from school. Mom and Dad were home from work. It was a joyful Christmas that year, I remember Dad making breakfast that morning and we were all sitting around the table. Dad, as always, was reading the paper as we ate. NPR was on the radio in the kitchen. And out of nowhere, Dad just put the paper on the table... "Carrie! This is your essay!" I was shocked. I had no idea they were going to publish it. It turned out that the editor of that section of the paper was on vacation at the time and the person working in her place didn't know who I was. So they published it. And then I saw it. My name in print under a few paragraphs that I had written. My Dad was thrilled. I was so excited. Mrs. Little... thank you!

I happened to find the essay that was printed in the Roanoke Times from an online database of newspaper archives which happened to date back to the early 1990's (talk about making you feel old!). Especially for those of you from the Southwestern Va., region I think you'll enjoy reading this short composition about how I saw the Roanoke City Market nearly 20 years ago... and amazingly how little it has changed since then!

Potpourri and Pine: The Roanoke City Market Captures the Season
From: The Roanoke Times Archives
Written by a 17 year-old me...
From the Editorial section, December 24 1994

THE SIDEWALKS are encrusted with forgotten orange rinds and apple cores, while the smell of hot apple cider lingers in the musty air. Passersby are greeted with fresh pine cuttings and little wooden men, each with its own story, made by an old carver whittling close at hand. Cheery seasonal melodies in the distance are strummed softly by local musicians.

The scent of flavored coffees and muffins draws people to the local coffee and tea house near the lighted trees of the old market. The little shops offer freshly made jams, homemade pies and ornamental decor right under the "cinnamon and cloves" aroma of the hand-stitched potpourri sachets hanging on the wall, which seem to be calling out for those close by to take them home.

I find that whenever I have the pleasure of visiting the Roanoke City Market, I return home with a reassured knowledge that believing is seeing. The market comes with scents and distinct feelings, contributing to a warm and homey atmosphere that overcrowded malls don't offer.

The atmosphere of such a place as the market is astonishingly different from that of a mall. The market offers so much more in return with its purchases than just the receipt you would receive at the mall. The mall was designed to make shopping trips easy and accessible while crowding many stores into one large building to make parking easier. The market's purpose is not that of a designer, but of the individual.

The market, though often less frequently advertised, gives individuals a chance to look in "nooks and crannies" for treasures of all sorts, whereas at the mall you only get the obvious. Craftsmen and street vendors line the cozy streets, selling their unique, "made with care" items, while at the mall the predictable clothing and other articles are often made in faraway poor countries. The specialties at the market usually don't consist of something from an imported famous designer, but from the special hands of hard-working people in our area.

The market is especially charming during the holidays. You feel welcome, and if you weren't in the spirit before you arrived, you will be when you depart. The mall offers some of the same feeling, but you can't enjoy it as much without the crisp fall air brushing against your cheek while you munch on a fresh apple from an open shop wondering if you can outrun the flock of pigeons before you get to your car.

The market leaves you with a wonderful magic that the mall can't ever impart. You believe the world can be as delightful as the market seems. The mall is just another mall; there are millions of them; they have no real personality. There is only one Roanoke City Market!

And Mrs. Little... I'll have you know... you are and were absolutely right. As I turn 34 this year... I am absolutely thrilled with where I am in my life and I can't wait to live more of it. I'm so glad you were my teacher. 

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