Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Stories of a Small Town

Good morning from Starbucks! It's awfully early, but Shane is on his way to his hometown near Boston, and then leaving on a cruise to Bermuda. Tough life, huh? I just get to be the chauffeur.

I actually really do love early mornings. I never really classified myself as a morning person, but I guess in a sense I am. I think, in part, because I am such a light sleeper. So, the first inkling of noise from my alarm and I am awake, ready to jump on whatever the day has to offer. The afternoon is free game for crashing, but the mornings... count me in.

Small towns have been on my mind lately. Yes, I love the hustle and bustle (and shopping) of a city, but I have always found myself so romanced by the lure of a small town. Growing up, my mom, brothers, and I spent the summers in her hometown of Everett, Pennsylvania. It was really beautiful... rolling mountains, trees for miles, the sights and smells you just can't find amongst tall buildings and traffic jams. My aunt lived in the cute 2-story farm house that she, my uncle, and my mom grew up in, and we stayed there each summer. It sat on the end of a winding dirt road, right on a small river. Big Bend Beach Road. You don't get more sweet and more country than that.

I loved my summers there. The walls of that house were filled with so many stories, so much history. Even as a child, I could feel it and understand it. I slid down the stairs and could picture my mother doing the same thing when she was a child. I could smell the chicken and dumplin's in the kitchen that my grandmother, whom I never knew due to Alzheimer's, was preparing for her three children; see her effortlessly piecing and sewing together a dress in the living room. I could hear the engine of my mom's 1970-something Chevy Nova barreling down the road just before curfew. I could taste the salty sweetness of a hot Pennsylvania summer as my Uncle Sam played with matchbox cars on the front porch and the girls lounged around in bikinis, sipping Pepsi through a straw and eating Gobs, dreaming of the days of adulthood independence.

The 2-day drive along the east coast from central Florida to Pennsylvania each summer, was always approached with anticipation. We loaded up the mini-van, my twin brothers and I packing a bag of coloring books and cards, and off we went... stopping for Happy Meals, and a warm bed somewhere in North Carolina, when the audio book could no longer fulfill its purpose of keeping my mother awake.

We passed through Virginia, Maryland, trudging along until we saw that lovely state sign. Welcome to the Keystone State. Our month-long summer extravaganza had finally begun. Bring on the picnics, the lemonade stands, the sleepovers, and the stories.

The stories were always my favorite part. Those stories of the people your life would have been more complete by knowing, of the crazy things your favorite aunts did in earlier times that you chuckle listening to because you struggle to even imagine it, stories of families joining, 2 sisters marrying 2 brothers and the silky spiderweb of family growing. Stories of the infectious laughter of the man you never had the privilege to know, but is in your blood just the same. The man with a strong, level head atop his lanky, tanned body from the hard labor he did outside, the same build your mother saw when she looked at your brothers. The man who carried your mom on his shoulders and put his arm around hers as they drove around in the cab of his pick-up truck. Who scolded his children when they misbehaved, but ended each day with a bear hug and a kiss... until, that day, much earlier than if life was ever fair, those kisses came to a screeching halt.

These stories allowed me to have a bond with people much deeper than just if I had gotten to  know them myself. I think that is why I always loved that house on Big Bend Beach Road so much. Its walls were filled with so many stories. The funny, the far-fetched, the moving, and the untold. You do not have to experience them first hand for a story to become a part of you.

As you move through life, I challenge you, and myself, to treasure the stories you are creating. One day, you will share them, you will allow another person to experience your past with you.

As Shane and I are beginning a life in the small town of Lillian, Alabama, just as my mother began her story in Everett, Pennsylvania, the walls, roads, restaurants, and shops are filled with stories. May you find them, live them, and share them.

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