By Mara Dobyns – Raised in Greenville

   “There are no happy endings. Endings are the saddest part. So just give me a happy middle and a very happy start.”
– Shel Silverstein

   Oh Greenville, where to even begin… It’s been a year but my very first memories of life were with you. I was brought home from the hospital on a Super Bowl Sunday to a room full of fans and snacks. You were a magical place to share my childhood memories and imagination with. It’s mostly just a blur, a collection of misplaced memories over time. The daycare across the street from my dad’s work where I used to stand at the chain link fence, dreaming of climbing over and running to the comfort and familiarity of the office. My first scar from when I fell off of my bike, riding down our driveway. The treehouse in our neighbor’s backyard and all the time spent daydreaming and playing pretend inside of it. That neighbor – Katy, and I used to stand at the fence line and call for each other as loudly as we could when we wanted the other to come outside and play. Back before cell phones, back when street lights turning on at dusk still implied it was time to head home if you were still out with your friends at the end of the day. The apple tree I used to climb and create “potions” in with twigs, seeds, leafs, and whatever else was available to gather. My first library visit that sprouted my thirst for literature. Mountain Valley Pizza after my brother’s high school football games on a Friday night. My Pocahontas themed birthday party and the dollhouse I wanted and received for Christmas when I was only four or five years old. My brother’s baseball games, street dances (Gold Diggers), Easter egg hunts, fishing at round valley lake (so many bluegill!), friends over for lunch after church, and rollerblading at the park with my mom. Girl Scouts, wagon rides and sledding down the driveway with my brothers. The sound of fresh water and the smell of mint growing nearby. The drug store on the corner that had all the Ty beanie babies a girl could ask for, which of course my dad helped me collect. I was obsessed, thanks, dad! Playing in the gym with all the siblings of players and familiar faces you knew would be there while my brothers played their basketball games. That growing love and sense of community, an extended family outside of your own. Catching tadpoles and bullfrogs by the playground. The simplicity of small town living. First friends, first crushes, first sleepovers and injuries, really just a whole lot of firsts. Piano lessons (those didn’t last long), the blackberry bush in our backyard, my stamp collection, all the animals we loved. Always fiercely exploring and constantly dirty from playing outside. I never wore shoes. I lived for days spent in nature. One of my first real and hardest goodbyes as we packed up an RV and left everything I’d ever known to move away at the young age of seven.   
   You were a sanctuary to me and so many others. You were an impactful little town full of hope and adventure. My very own happy start. Such treasured memories. Such love for a place that suffered so much loss. My heart still hurts for all of those affected and I can only imagine the roller coaster it’s been. Please know that you’re not alone and that this feeling of displacement won’t last forever. Those memories, that love, that place, they still live on in the friendly faces and hearts that lived there. I hope each day brings you closer to peace. I hope each memory still makes you smile. I hope the community, spirit and heart of the town stays strong and continues to flourish through the people that made it so special to begin with. I hope you’re rebuilding and coping fully. I hope you’re taking breaks to reflect and breathe when you need to, I know it’s not easy. I’m sending all of my love to you. Please know that if you need a listening ear, a cup of coffee, or just someone to sit in the silence or swap stories with, I’m here and can be reached via email at: [email protected]. Here’s to Greenville and here’s to all of you.

Dixie Fire in Greenville