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There’s No Place Like Home!

by Mary Jo Shannon

When I taught three and four-year-olds, one of their favorite stories was about a mouse family who lived in a hatbox in the attic. When the little mice were old enough to go out on their own, one mouse excitedly ventured into the Great Unknown to find a new home. Although he enjoyed being on his own and meeting many new animals, he couldn’t find a suitable home.    When a big black cat almost captured him he ran as fast as he could back to the attic – and guess what he found? All of his brothers and sisters had made new homes right there in the attic, not far from the hat box where they grew up.

This story recently came to mind when I reflected on our family’s story. We lived a quiet life when the children were growing up. Vacations were usually camping trips, with day visits to places of interest in Virginia and North Carolina. Summer fun included visiting grandparents in Augusta County – playing in the fields, picking blackberries, riding the pony, and playing in the creek. How quickly our three grew up, graduated from Patrick Henry High School, and set out in various directions to follow their dreams.

Harry was the first to go. First to the University of Virginia, then to Freiburg, Germany during his senior year, on a Rotary International Scholarship. After law school at UVA, he went back to Germany for a doctorate in German law at the University of Munich. Afterward he joined  an American law firm in Atlanta, then a German law firm in Manhattan. A switch to Ernst & Young, sent him back to Munich for six years and then to New York City. Not to mention business trips to Brazil, the Netherlands, France, Spain , etc.

Our daughter, (who became “Shannon” at JMU because six Kathys lived in her dorm), went on to Virginia Tech for her MBA. After her marriage to Charles “Skip” Davis, she enrolled at the University of Maryland for her Ph.D. in human resources. So when Skip was transferred to Raleigh, Dr. K. Shannon Davis became a professor in the College of Management at NC State. Now as Associate Dean, she travels regularly to universities in France, England, Ireland, Korea, and other countries, representing NC State in the dual degree program among participating universities.

John was the last to leave the nest. He graduated from VMI, and then went to med school at the University of Virginia. Fulfilling his ROTC obligation to the Army, he spent three years in San Antonio at Fort Sam Houston teaching nurse anesthetists. John interned at Roanoke Memorial and the Veteran’s Administration hospital. When he received a research fellowship at Vanderbilt, he and his wife Amye and their young son moved to Nashville, and he continued to work in research there after his fellowship ended. Although certified in internal medicine, John undertook a second residency at Vanderbilt in anesthesiology. In all, he and his family spent eight years in Nashville..

Now for the similarity between our children and the mice. After traveling throughout the world, all three were drawn back to the region where they spent their quiet childhood. Not right in Roanoke, mind you, but all within 1 ½ hours of our home. Several years ago, Kathy and Skip bought mountain land in Carroll County and built a log home there.  It serves as a peaceful weekend retreat  and they plan to retire there in the future. Harry and I often share their weekends and on one occasion, all the family spent Christmas Day at the “cabin.”

John’s purpose in becoming certified in anesthesiology was to spend more time with his family. He also wanted to move to Virginia to be nearer Amye’s family in the Williamsburg area and his family in Roanoke. He now is with Valley Anesthesia and has a home in Salem.

Finally, Harry purchased a farm in Rockbridge County about three years ago and occasionally comes down from NYC for weekends and holidays. A caretaker manages the farm during his absence. Harry also plans to retire there in several years. This past Christmas the entire Shannon family met at his farm for Christmas dinner, and his PH class of 1975 used the farm for their 30th reunion.

Like the mice in the story, eventually all our children have decided there’s no place like home. I can’t help but wonder if perhaps I told that story more than some of the others.

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