It was the summer before my 4th grade year. I was excited that school was finally out. Oh, the thrill of “doing nothing.” My parents, however, decided to leave the city and move the family to a farm in Pinson. At the time, I was very upset with them for moving me. When I first laid eyes on the property, the grass was so high they could have lost me in it. I just knew they had completely lost their minds, and I cried and cried, wishing for my old home. Maybe I could just live with my grandparents in Germany. Yeah, there’s a plan. Instead of visiting my grandparents during the summer months, I could reverse it...live with my grandparents permanently and visit my parents in the summer!
But slowly I began to realize that the place had a little potential. Turns out, there was an old country store right next door, and Ms. Linda (aka “Momma Linda”) sold all sorts of goodies including.... brace yourself... Jolly Rancher candy sticks for 10 cents each! If you have ever tasted a delicious Jolly Rancher candy stick, then you can certainly understand my excitement. Yes sir. Forget the grass issue -- getting lost in the grass was well worth the exchange of living next to a candy store! HELLO! They had me at Green Apple. ☺
My dad and brother worked hard to fight back the grass to begin exploring the new property. Our family had gone from less than a one-acre lot in the city to 30 acres in the country... overnight! What on earth would we do with 30 acres? But Dad was adamant that we deserved a nice life in the country. So there we were.
I remember lying awake at night, tossing and turning, wishing all the crickets would just disappear. Who could sleep with that incessant noise outside? (It has since become one of my favorite sounds in life...so soothing) But on our new never-ending property, in addition to the annoying crickets, the tall smothering grass, and everything else I loathed, sat an old red barn. I can still remember walking into that old barn...the smell of horses, the stream of light shining through the gaping wood slats, the damp, musty smell that accompanies most old buildings. The red dirt that served as the floor was as fine as sand, making such a mess. The barn was so old and rickety that if someone were to stand in the loft and sway, the barn would sway with them. We had acquired pigs, horses, and one bull in and around the barn. That’s all I could really see. Just what was in front of me. No diamond in the rough. No long term goal. Just dirt, animals, and a building that would one day collapse.
Dad, on the other hand, stood and gazed at that old barn, dreamy-eyed. Dad saw a project. Not sure what he was thinking at the time, but I am glad he had a vision the rest of us did not. Dad is definitely the last of the dreamers in this world, but unlike most, he actually puts life to his dreams.
He slowly started working on the barn a little at a time each day after work. He did not run to the bank and take out a big loan. Instead, he gathered materials as they presented themselves and restored the barn within his means. For twenty-plus years he worked tirelessly on that barn. His labor of love. All of us wondered if it would ever be complete because Dad is a perfectionist and something could always use “a little more work.”
Fast forward... 2013... the barn is now complete, as we added the finishing touches. The spiral wood and iron staircase leading to the romantic bedroom loft (with a corner jacuzzi tub!) was installed, the mirrored bathroom walls were carefully cut and placed in the main bathroom. One of the last touches was the concrete driveway that now covers the once very muddy path leading to the barn, and posts with strings of outdoor lights now light the drive. Everything was coming together, and my parents could finally pursue their plans of moving into the “old barn.” However, soon after considering their transition into the barn, they realized that labor of love Dad worked so hard perfecting could be used for something more, something for others to enjoy for years to come. This thinking eventually gave birth to Bear Creek Events.
As a professional photographer I found myself shooting the very first wedding at Bear Creek. As I snapped photos and strived to catch the magic of the night I was overcome with emotion. I paused and thought of the love and work that turned what was essentially a deserted building into a place where dreams came true. Over those twenty-something years our family experienced the ups and downs of life yet there stood, next to the barn, a hundred year old oak tree with my childhood swing, reminding me that he had survived. My eyes shifted to the pond and I noticed my dad making his way up the hill. He had just finished feeding the fish, as he does every night, and decided to come up and say hello. His visit was such a surprise, and absolutely made my day. You see, Dad doesn’t like attention and is more of a behind-the-scenes kind of man. He would literally give you the shirt off of his back, but humbly, would never want thanks for giving it. So, seeing Dad walking up the hill to check out the wedding reception brought a smile to my heart. We looked at each other and, pointing over toward the reception, I asked him what he thought. He looked back at me with tears in his eyes and said, “Did you ever think it would look like this 10 years ago?” I laughed to myself thinking how his 20 year labor of love only seemed like 10 years to him… but it was really 20.
I can never really put into words what my heart feels when I walk the property. But I feel something. Gratitude. Humility. Love. All things good. My little slice of heaven. And with all the evil and sadness in the world, it is nice to enjoy a true moment of sheer happiness, such as I experienced that evening standing silently beside my Dad, as I realized his dream had become part of who I am.
Bear Creek……not just another venue, not just another family business, but a place where a 9 year old girl's disappointment melted into her dad's dreamy vision and together they took flight. What was born of that union was a place created of love, peace and solitude. A gift for many generations.
Turns out my parents’ decision to drag our family to the sticks was a pretty smart move after all.