Cozy, confining and kinda cool
November 1, 2013
Sometimes, small towns can just feel small. Small opinions. Small-minded. Incestuous. Repetitive. A bit inbred. And then there are times, small towns feel safe and famile and slightly wondrous.
For me the week was both. Disappointing in watching some small-minded opinions make so much noise, noise, noise, NOISE! They seemed to shout over reason and reality. Until others, instead of disagreeing, just nodded and agreed, not because they actually did in any fashion but because they wanted the noise to STOP.
One evening, I simply couldn’t cook. Not a can of soup, not a grilled cheese sandwich. I was already home and not driving out, or even through, to grab a meal. I did what I do on rare occasions… I ordered in. I always use the same speedy service. I scrolled down the online menu and voila! Chinese popped up. I knew if I could get the pork fried rice of my childhood, some of the nonsense of the week would disappear. I ordered. I waited.
And sooner than promised, the doorbell rang and the friendly man broke out in a smile. "I remember you!" he said. "You ordered from Butcher’s last year. " It was a fact I had forgotten, but yes, I think that was true and I smiled back and nodded. "Remember, you had the presidential debates on and we talked about who to vote for…" And I did remember. We had a long talk there on the porch while the food got cold about why I was supporting the president for a second term. My delivery man turned out to be the owner of this small, successful business and is Hispanic. He said he was voting for Barack Obama again but he wasn’t sure about his "homies" doing the same. "Remember, " he said again this week, "you had said just get everybody registered and rest will take care of itself." And they did. And it did.
And here he was again. Remembering the house and the discussion and even the last meal I ordered from him over a year ago. We had a moment of congratulating ourselves with a little "our guy won stuff." I paid him and he thanked me so sincerely for ordering from him. I plan to do so again, really soon.
And then another evening, I was working downstairs when daylight had been replaced by computer light and I hadn’t paid attention when the doorbell rang. I sprang from the couch and turned on the porch light and looked around but there was no one there. But there was a surprise gift on the porch with one of those "You’ve been boo’ed" notes. It is a relatively new custom, where days before Halloween neighbors/friends put little treats on your doorstep, ring the bell and disappear. And you put the sticker on the window/door so other neighbors know you have been zapped already. But since I have no children living in my house it had been years since it had happened to me.
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When I reached down to pick up my treat, a smile broke out across my face — this was clearly someone who knew me well. My "treat" was a fine bottle of red wine.
Halloween came and dozens of little ones and middle ones came to the door and politely took treats and left the decorations in place. In the morning, no wilder’s had gone through the neighborhood and decimated all the pumpkins in the night. And the neighborhood woke, peaceful as usual.
It was almost enough to forget the smallness of earlier in the week. When the goblins were hobgoblins of conformity thinking. Those are times you want to scream, "Do you know how this works in the rest of the world! Do you know big ideas mean big risks and big opportunities and big failures first, to get to big risks which then produce the really, really big ideas? "
And it reminded me of all the noise, noise, noise about the rollout of the new national health care system. Critics have conceded the actual care will be a good thing for the formerly uninsured. But critics being, well, critics had to fuss and scream about the hiccups in the actual website. Who hasn’t launched or used a new website and had glitches the first few weeks? Honestly. What if all that energy and noise could be directed at creating laws we need, instead of complaining about those we have?
Back in my ‘hood, when I rolled the car out of the garage in the morning I looked over at the little park bench I leave out all year long. I had placed on the slats a few apples that were a bit mushy for me but I was hoping would be "just right" for the deer. And sure enough, there were some big mouth bites taken out in the night. There were birds, actually a full convention of doves that took off en masse, as I pulled out away from the house. Something about all that felt comforting and safe.
I drove to pick up treats for a morning meeting and when I entered the tiny cafe with baked goods the owner came over and gave me a morning hug. And we conversed about this golden time when one busy season has ended and the busiest season has yet to begin. How good it feels to have time for a conversation.
Maybe in Big Cities there is a similar kind of ebb and flow. Maybe neighbors take good care of one another and deer eat off benches in your yard and the delivery man you only see annually remembers you, but I doubt it. And I’m not eager to explore the possibilities. I am content, even with the occasional small mindedness, to choose small town living any day of the week, and especially this Sunday in this Park….
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the organization that provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.