“A man who had grown up across the street from them bought our lunch and asked the diner to make sure we got pie (because pie helps everything).”
The above account could only have happened in a small town. The author’s father had died and the family had gathered in a restaurant. Could the same have happened in a big city?
While I’m a city girl born and bred, I’ve spent a lot of time in small towns. Much of my childhood summers were spent in a few towns in the South where life has a dependable ebb and flow. Funeral casseroles, church plays, holiday parades, cruising the square, going to the “bigger small” town nearby for food or shopping, etc.
One of my favorite small town stories actually doesn’t involve me. My grandparents, small town residents through and through, were driving down the town’s main street. A police squad car pulls up beside them and the officer waves. My grandmother waves back. The officer waves more frantically and begins saying something. Grandmother can’t quite hear what he’s saying but can tell it’s one of her former students and keeps waving back. The squad car pulls off.
The phone is ringing when they get home. It’s the police dispatcher. “Ma’am, Officer Smith isn’t sure you understood him. He says your tags are expired.”
Would that have ever happened in the big city? Hardly. Small towns are webs full of connections good and yes, sometimes, bad. Many folks leave and cannot imagine returning. Others, yearning for that sense of belonging they never had, try to make their place in this community. As Bess Aldrich said in 1933, “After all, it is contact and familiarity that help endear people and places to us.”
Are we losing our small towns? What will we lose and will it matter?
Where do you find community and belonging?