A fond farewell

  • Tuesday, January 14, 2014

It occurred to me this past May, after a visit with my now 19-month-old granddaughter who is being held hostage by her parents in the far off land of Oregon, that if I wanted to spend more time with her, I’d have to be unemployed to do it.

So there you have it. I need more baby time.

And writing time. So when I’m not offering up words of wisdom on the raising up of my grandchild, I’ll be writing. Probably about the grandchild.

So this is it. My last week of newspapering.

My career has been a long and wonderful ride. And it was never work from the first minute as a teenager.

One of my favorite photos of the Hubster is one I took when I was 17. The photo was for the Palmetto Leaf, the Camden High School newspaper. (He was actually the staff photographer, so he developed the film.)

That was nearly 50 years ago. It’s been a love affair — both with newspapers and the guy I was photographing that day.

I occasionally call it a bad habit that I can’t get over. From my time at The State newspaper in Columbia, to my first job at The Journal Scene – hired by now-mayor Bill Collins – where I covered schools and any concert I could talk my way into, it’s been more than a job. A lifestyle.

From there I went on to edit The Goose Creek Gazette before moving on to The Post and Courier where I was, of all things, the fashion editor. They must have been crazy. I didn’t know the difference between Valentino and Versace when I started, but I’m forever thankful for that opportunity. I eventually became the features editor for The Post and Courier and had the great fortune to cover some of the 200th anniversary celebrations for that most venerable of publications.

When I had the chance to return to community journalism as the executive editor for The Journal Scene, The Gazette and The Berkeley Independent, I jumped at the chance.

I’ve had more fun at my job than almost anyone I can think of. Probably because it was never a job, but just what I was meant to do. I’ve written stories that tell the tales of the various communities in which I’ve worked. I’ve laughed with folks who had something fun to tell, commiserated with those who were victims of some outrageous fortune.

And the photographs: of smiling children, wise senior citizens, ordinary folks engaged in life. My days have been filled with car wrecks, business features, bits of local history, and winners and losers in everything from beauty pageants and political races to ribbons for the best camellias at the fair. I’ve shot photos at concerts, have roamed the sidelines at football games shooting the game when there was no one else to do it. (For the record, I still know next to nothing about football.)

It’s been my good fortune to work with folks whose primary job is to tell stories. To work among other writers has been an honor.

And now the question I get multiple times a day: “What are you going to do now?”

Newspapering is all I’ve done for so long, I’m not 100 percent sure how I’ll redefine my time, myself.

The likely answer will be simply “writer.”

I plan to get up every morning, see the Hubster off to work, then take the wiener dogs for a walk – both they, and I, need it. I’ll come back, have a little breakfast, grab a mug of coffee and head to my little in-home office to write for a few hours. Or edit the books that are collections of the columns I’ve written off and on for 25 years. I figure I have about 900 columns, half of which are in hard copy only, meaning there will be a whole lot of transcribing going on. About 100 or so already have found their way into collections, the first of which, “Living with Wieners… and Guys, too” will get it’s first public airing at the Author! Author! event at next week’s Third Thursday.

I have gardening to do, something I’ve always enjoyed but have had little time for in recent years. Digging in the dirt and watching things grow from almost nothing is pure joy.

And there’s the artwork. I’m pretty awful at it but there was a time when I painted canvases all day every day. Another joy that I’m ready to revisit.

Then there are all the people I’ve neglected while I’ve been putting out newspapers. My sisters, my friends – my husband, children and only grandchild.

Watch out folks.

Here I come, ready or not. Judy with time on her hands. A completely new experience.

For those who need to reach me in the future, my new email is judyannewatts@gmail.com. I have a Facebook page under the same name. And the books will have fan pages once I figure out what the heck that is.

Although I will be gone from the building, I’ll likely write the occasional Watts Line for our community’s newspaper to let everyone know what’s going on with Surfer Dude, Manchild #2 and the Hubster.

I wouldn’t trade my life — both at work and at home — with anyone elses.

It’s been great fun everyone.

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