Today we went to one of those lovely small-town events where people dress as historical characters, there’s a religious choir, shaved ices, American flags, hot dogs, used books, and canoodling teenagers. Everybody sits in lawn chairs and makes jokes about horses that it takes me until the end of the event to understand.
What’s really great is that people now recognize me. The bibliophile gentleman who organizes church book sales comes out to share his most recent finds because he knows I’ll appreciate them. People who have been to my public talks wave. The town library guy is happy to see me and gives Klara free books. The grocery store lady comes up to ask why I never bring Klara to the store anymore and which kindergarten is she going. God knows, it’s not vanity that makes me want to be recognized. It’s a former unpopular kid’s need to belong.
And at sunset there’s this gigantic, completely orange, beautiful sun over our heads. I tried to take pictures but they came out as pale and boring as any retelling of an event like this.
It took me years to figure out the rhythm of American small-town life but now I’m completely addicted.
7 thoughts on “Small-town Life”
Small-town life is what makes America great.
Have you read “Main Street” by Sinclair Lewis?
I know what the standard critique of it offers, but I’ll suggest a different route for reading it.
Try to understand it from the perspective that it is a critique of the female protagonist, Carol Kennicott, and not a critique of small town life.
That holds up pretty well overall for one of America’s few winners of the Nobel Prize in literature, and perhaps you could also see Lewis’s most famous work from the perspective of Cervantes.
When Carol Kennicott believes she hasn’t found big enough windmills to attack in her small town and hasn’t a big enough jackass to lead around, what does she do? 🙂
That’s right, I’m offering a feminist Don Quixote from the perspective of an American small town.
Now are you at least slightly tempted? 🙂
It turned 100 last year, so it’s overdue for a critical reading for the present times.
LikeLiked by 1 person
It’s a beautiful novel and your reading of it is great.
This reminds of Rod Dreher’s book about his sister, “The Little Way of Ruthie Leming”.
There is something about living in a big city that feels anonymous – like no one knows we are there. But in a small town we are known. Many, like Dreher, longed to flee the small town only to learn how sacred and precious living there is.
It sounds like you have found your happy place. What a treasure!
This sounds lovely.
I have a problem where, once people start to recognize me at a grocery store / coffee shop / restaurant etc., I get really uncomfortable and bolt (no longer patronize said grocery store / coffee shop / restaurant etc.) There’s a weird dichotomy (in me, at least) between wanting to belong and being terrified / weirded out by it.
Hi! I have the same instinct. We have a really nice bookstore nearby with a nice owner who knows me, and I cringe each time when I go there and hope he’s not there. But I like him! Same thing with restaurants. I like being anonymous when I am shopping or eating out, otherwise I feel like I have to perform and it becomes almost like a chore. Maybe it is just introversion.
LikeLiked by 1 person
“I like being anonymous when I am shopping or eating out, otherwise I feel like I have to perform and it becomes almost like a chore. Maybe it is just introversion.”