July 4, 1999. Remember that date? I do. It was hot and muggy. Did I say muggy? We were unloading a U-Haul into our new rental home here in Clayton. Newcomers. No family nearby. No nobody. Just moved to be close to Raleigh, where my husband had a new job. Little did we know we were part of an ongoing tidal wave of Clayton immigrants.
Nor did my preschoolers know they would both finish high school here. The 5-year-old quickly set about making friends and breaking rules at school, while the 3-year-old grieved his left-behind crib, cold heartedly sold at a yard sale. (They say early traumas are the worst.)
Nevertheless, after a few adjustments, friends we did make. And that’s a big reason I say Clayton is a great place to grow roots. As Clayton News-Star editor School Bolejack recently shared, Clayton has some kind, helpful folks. In fact, wearing my psychologist hat, I’d even call it a “therapeutic community.” Because not only do you find helpful people in your neighborhoods, schools, churches and coffee shops, Clayton has other characteristics that simply make it a good place to be.
For example, there are activities galore for everyone: concerts, car and truck shows, town festivals, Parks and Rec programs, arts events, summer camps, etc. Community education too – like business and computer classes. In addition to traditional schools, Clayton has a large home-school community and two private schools. And there’s a great working relationship between community volunteers and schools to help support kids in need, i.e., the BackPack Buddies program. And speaking of volunteers, Clayton is full of volunteer-run programs; if there’s a need, someone is trying to meet it.
And don’t forget location – close enough to Raleigh to work or shop, but just outside the worst traffic. (Alas, our traffic is growing, but so are businesses – another boon at least.) And great parks, plus the Neuse River greenway and Clemmons Educational State Forest at our back door. Totally awesome. Add to that our Main Street-style shops and restaurants and you have a winning combination.
So now that I’ve bragged on Clayton, you might be wondering what prompted a regular Claytonite like me to write this? (No, I’m not getting paid by the Town Council.) I’m leaving soon, that’s why. You know the saying: “You don’t know what’cha got ’til it’s gone.” I will truly miss the wonderful friends and memories I made here. But before I leave for our sister state of Tennessee, I’d like to ask other News-Star readers to help out with a follow-up article to be comprised of your stories of how someone in Clayton was helpful to you or how something good happened because of being here. Please send to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In sum, I believe Clayton is a unique blend of innovation and tradition. The simple and the modern. More important, Clayton has a lot of good to nurture. So to everyone who gets to stay – barely planted or deeply rooted – enjoy your town and keep up the good work.
The writer holds a bachelor’s degree in English and education and a master’s degree in clinical psychology. She has been a teacher and therapist and has written for magazines and a professional journal.