Millions of people spend their whole lives trying to get out of a small town, but I am just happy to have finally gotten in. While some people feel trapped by the small town embrace, I snuggle into it like a big bear hug and tonight reminded me once again of why.
I went to the store tonight after the kids went to bed (like I usually do-I am not the brave mom who brings 3 kids 6 and under into a store) and got in line with my usual checker. That's right-I have a usual checker. Her name is Allison and her husband's name is Paul*. They work opposite shifts [he works days and she works nights] so they rarely see each other, but they still have movie nights once a week when Shawna has the night off-they take turns picking movies and snacks. Shawna and I see each other at least three times a week, so when I got to the front of the line our conversation went like this....
"Hey Allison, how was your vacation?"
"It was really great. You know how much I miss Paul and we got to spend some real quality time together. I really didn't want to come back but you know how it is..."
"Money rules all...ha ha ha."
"Don't I know it. Anyway, I called Paul while he was at work this morning and told him I can't wait to see him tomorrow night, because I was supposed to have the night off, and he said 'I'll believe it when I see it'. Don't you know as soon as I came in they told me they needed me to work tomorrow night. I think he jinxed me."
"Aww, well I hope you get a night off soon."
"I see you're busy with school," she said, indicating the many frozen meals in my cart, "how is your Chinese class going?"
"I had to drop it because I couldn't afford the books and the teacher tried to teach ONLY by immersion."
"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that."
"Yeah, but I think I can pick up a philosophy class with the same professor I had last quarter."
"Well that's good-you mentioned he was really nice. How is [Hubby] doing in his first quarter?"
"Good so far, even though we're only two days in. He's really enjoying it."
"That's so good-does he still want to do engineering?"
"He's considering doing some kind of theoretical science thing, so I'm not sure, but he has a while to decide."
"Theoretical science sounds like it might be right up his alley."
"I know, that's what I thought."
Yes, my check out lady knows my husband well enough to know what is up his alley...because in a small town everyone is a real person. Your grocery checker is not just some anonymous auto-matron who you mumble at while they spew highly regulated conversation at you, they are a real person with a real life that you are a little part of, and they are a little part of yours. I talk politics with Jeff*, who pumps my gas. My neighbors Todd and Sheila* and I talk about their new upstart business and my plans after college. Everywhere I go in this town I am with real people...among friends...
What is invisible and smells like carrots?
A bunny fart.
That's the joke one of the other customers in the grocery store told me saying "I think your babies oughta like that one." I've only seen him a few times in the grocery store but he knows I have three small children that I homeschool and I know that he had an aneurysm in 1988 and has gone through years of therapy to be able to talk as well as he does and also that he has a 10 year old granddaughter named Shelly*.
In a small town we all know each other's stories. When somebody laughs, when somebody cries, their struggles and triumphs-in a small town it's more than living next to each other, we share our lives together and I can't think of anything that says 'home' more than that.
*Their names were changed because I didn't ask for permission to post them, but I really do know their actual names.