My grandparents lived in SoDu back in the 80's when I was growing up, in a little brick rancher off Garrett, which thirty years later I would drive past four times a day on my way to my kids preschool and back home. Durham wasn't doing so great back then. During all our visits, the only part of downtown I remember going to was Morgan Imports. In fact, we would go every Christmas Eve and I would gaze at all the trees all fully decorated. I hazily remember drinking sparkling apple cider as the adults sipped champagne and I felt that all those twinkling lights and the mysterious stairs up to the second floor (that we couldn't go to) meant that this was the secret entrance to the North Pole. For a girl growing up in Tennessee, North Carolina felt north enough for it to make sense.
Northgate Mall was the place to visit, where my grandpa always treated me to Orange Julius. The rest of Durham seemed to be a lot of empty storefronts to me, but I definitely remember loving Another Thyme in my new days as a cliche vegetarian teenager. Then there's the time I went to a Bulls game with a guy I was crushing on. By then my family had moved to NC, but we lived in a small town in the mountains, so Durham seemed big league, even though the team wasn't. The game was in the old stadium that still holds a special place in my heart, with it's turret entrance, a field open to the sky with but a few bleachers and a wide lawn past the bases. My crush caught a home run from just underneath the "Hit A Bull" sign, and I snapped a photo of him with the 35mm camera I borrowed from my high school. Being the high school newspaper editor had its perks. I certainly never imagined I'd one day live here, but if nothing else, life is serendipitous.
As we embraced suburbia, we had our own kiddos and no sooner did I have my 2nd child than I found myself without a job after the preschool I worked at closed suddenly. I was a - wait, there's that unremarkable and totally inaccurate phrase again - "stay at home" mom, something I had not planned on being. I had a 9 month old and 3 year old and was totally and utterly alone. My husband worked in Cary, and I didn't know what to do to fill my days. I met a couple friends at parks and started to private message them on Facebook. It seemed to work at first but then I realized it would be easier if I just created a group. Now SoDu - there is a phrase I *do* like. I am not the creator of it, people had said it before me I later found out, but when I created it among my group of friends I was inspired by how hip New York's Soho sounded, and also realized that using the correct pronounciation of Durham meant that the word would sound too close to soda, so "doo" it was. I also wanted dads to be a part instead of having a mom only space. I had met some cool dads at parks too, and just like us moms, they were trying to figure out how to raise kids, manage a house, and still feel like a person outside of parenting without a job to define you. Lastly, I just liked the alliteration of "posse". That's it. That's how it started, with maybe 10 people. They know who they are. It went from there, all the way up to where I started this, my article in the IndyWeek. Now SoDu as a phrase has become widely popularized, which still gives me a kick, and we're known triangle-wide now, thanks to a recent win. More on that in a minute.
When I wrote the article four years ago, so much was new to Durham, like the SoDu Farmer's Market and the revamped Old North Durham park, with it's super cool rope structures. Many of my favorites I wrote about are still around and yet since, much has changed. Stay and Play Snack Cafe closed down because at the time there wasn't enough downtown business to sustain it. Northgate doesn't have the same attractions it once did, and the Marry Durham movement of 2011 has (like many marriages) settled down, with nary a facebook update since 2015.
So many good things are ahead, and I'm very excited to share them with you. Because you - the reader, the posse member, the blog sponsor, YOU are the reason we were just voted BEST LOCAL FACEBOOK PAGE in IndyWeek's Best of the Triangle 2017. WE couldn't be the posse without YOU. What's the best hidden treasure of Durham? The smile as a parent connects with another for the first time, online or on the playground, and that's what I'm proud to help make happen.