Saturday, December 15, 2007

Joys of a Small Town!

The title of this post is a phrase that my mother is fond of saying when people are a smidge nicer than is strictly necessary for no apparent reason. (Then again, my mother is one of the most honorable people I know, so it's easy to be nice to her.) Anyway - I started thinking about it and I realized that there are quite a few things I really enjoy about living in a small (strike that, "itsy" is a more accurate word) town. I was born and raised in a small town and at different times of my life, I've lived in college towns, small towns, cities, and metropoli (that's the plural of "metropolis," right?).

So what is there to recommend small (I mean "itsy") town living? After all, it's not all apple pies cooling on windowsills and kids whitewashing the fence. (Thank heavens!) You tend to find what you're looking for, and overall, I'd have to say small towns have a certain tolerance for, nay, celebration of eccentricity. I don't just mean knowing who the local kook is - I mean honoring the oddities among us. Personally, I think this is more pronounced in the South, but I'll cheerfully admit to being biased. So, in no particular order, here are a dozen "joys of a small town."

1. Knowing that if you skid your car off into a ditch in an ice storm (we don't really get snow), just stay put. In less than twenty minutes, some guys will come along in a pickup truck with a logging chain. Don't offer to help - they live for this stuff.
2. Gardening in the back yard. (We still reserve the front yard for company; the back yard's for family.) Your burning ambition is to grow the world's largest pumpkin? Not gonna do that in a New York City walk-up. And yes, tomatoes taste better from your own patch. Just stay away from zucchini. Someone else will grow it and, trust me, they'll have plenty to give away.
3. Watching Christmas parades that feature baton-twirlers, cloggers, large Shriners in very small go-carts, as well as a horse-drawn hearse. Guess that's for the "scary ghost stories" lyric of "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year." And, on one memorable year, the Christmas Goat.
4. Understanding that the river has room for swimmers, turtles, and conversion experiences. Simultaneously.
5. Experiencing the traffic jam that follows a high school football game and marveling that it's much larger than any "rush hour" the town has to offer.
6. Driving around to see displays of Christmas lights, secretly hoping to find at least a couple of houses that make you ask, "What were they thinking?" but kind of liking it anyway, because you know that tasteful restraint has its place and Christmas isn't necessarily it.
7. Going out on Election Night to watch the volunteers climb up a ladder to post the precinct results on the world's largest whiteboard at the local fire station. People actually bring coffee and lawn chairs and treat it as a reality TV show.
8. Having a neighbor who keeps two horses in his back yard. In the city limits. In the winter, it's fine, but I don't want to be next door when the summer heat rolls in.
9. Strolling through the city cemetery to find the gravestone of the circus fat lady who died here. While sad to think she had no other family, well, she wasn't the first stray to be taken in and given a final, dignified rest.
10. Speaking of cemeteries, knowing that every well-bred woman has a "death casserole" that is either already in the freezer or can be whipped up in less than half an hour because viewings and funerals are social occasions and food must be provided.
11. Realizing that the original name of the town referenced the high degree of naturally-occurring lithium in the water. And having to consider that might explain a few things.
12. Knowing that adding "bless his/her heart" is the conversational equivalent of waving magical pixie dust. It's a universal balm that allows you to say the most vicious, backbiting things about someone, but still come off sounding friendly and sympathetic. For example: "Well, he can't really help it. His whole family have never been anything but shiftless chicken thieves, bless his heart." I've often wondered if that can be used as a defense as a slander trial - "But Your Honor, she said, 'Bless his heart!'" "Case dismissed!"

I like it here.

But I'm still going to Los Angeles in about two weeks. Home seems more like home when you're coming back to it.


Stacked Librarian said...

Ok, two questions. What is your "death casserole"? And what was the original name of the town?

Athena Smith said...

@SL: A "death casserole" is one of them there casserole's that you can throw together to take to the neighbor who's son just passed. It's called that because you can throw it together fast, and you usually take it to families who have had recent death's.

@Mockingbird: I loved the horse and carriage, but was a little disturbed by the fact that it was a hearse. But I must say, after having experienced a much larger parade just recently (the Gatlinburg, TN Christmas parade), I have to admit that the cloggers, baton-twillers and especially the -albeit large- Shriners in their go-carts, really make it feel like home. It really makes you realize just how small (err, itsy) this place is.

By the way, travel safe!

Akin said...

Well, so far I've not heard any banjos being played off in the woods when I visit, so it's been pretty cool. Well, plus the fact that you're there... :-)

Anyway, that bit about skidding off the road is sure true! During my Mom's first winter in Kentucky, that exact thing happened, and they absolutely refused to let her help!

As for "Bless his heart", I'm intrigued... are there limits? Like, "I hope they catch her murderin, theive, no good worthless son, bless his heart"... :-p

Nine days!!!!!

Dave said...

I love your blog, Dale! Thanks for sharing it with me. This is so cool.

Cousin Dave

Mockingbird said...

Hey, everybody - say "hello" to my cousin Dave! I'm experimenting with using the blog to catch up with some far-flung family members and Dave gets the gold star for checking in first!!

Athena Smith said...

Hiya Dave!

Akin said...

'allo Dave!