I have now been to the Great Sand Dunes National Park in all seasons and at different times of day. It fascinates me how each time has been different. This is what makes Photography interesting to me. No matter how many times you use the same subject matter, you can always find something different.
Every year in the beginning of summer, the circus comes to Small Town. Because we are a small town, we get a small circus mostly staffed by Vegas show girls that haven’t gotten a break yet and ex convicts. However, it’s the Shriner’s and the proceeds go to fund children’s something or other and the kids love it so… we go. What else do we have to do here in Small Town America? This year the 4 yo opted out and the infant is just way to young to expose to the disease infested masses so it was just the 6 yo and me. As we are driving to the fair grounds, I notice the sky is looking dark.
We soldiered on.
There was a multi-animal bit where the miniest of mini horses escaped the ring and started to run off into the fields beyond Small Town. Better yet, it was running toward what looked to be farmer Brown’s horse yard where The Black Stallion was running like a mythical creature, tail in air. Pretty sure Mini horse thought he was going to run free with farmer Brown’s amazing beast… until he was chased around the field for half an hour and finally recaptured during the clown set… by the clowns. Seriously! The clowns actually saw Mini horse coming back toward the fair grounds and added into their little bit his recapture.
The whole show, a lady behind me insisted on using her smart phone to look up all the citations the circus had received and read each and every one loudly, putting more of a damper on the experience than the rain.
I wanted to deck her.
Be proud of me.
Before this spring, I had never lost a close blood relative. I’ve lost a few married in aunts or uncles or great-grandparents but I had never lost a grandparent, parent, sibling or blood uncle or aunt. This spring, my grandfather died. And like in so many cases of long lasting love, my grandmother had a stroke not 2 months after he was in the ground – and on Mother’s Day no less. I came right away and although she was still living, she was in a vegetative state and I don’t know if she knew I was in the room or not. I talked to her, showed her the new baby, cried and then… well, what more could I do accept support my mother and uncles. If their reactions to her state and eventual death are any indication, she was a great mother. I have had 35 years to know this but their mourning was such a reminder of what a great person she was.
Death comes unexpectedly.
Grandma’s laundry was still in the drier. I folded it and put in her drawers.
Her kids had each sent her a Mother’s Day flower arrangement and they were still on the counters of her kitchen. She only got to enjoy them for mere hours before she collapsed from the stroke and never again opened her eyes to see anything around her.
Dad and I were deciding what to make for dinner and found food that needed to be thrown out but he didn’t want to because “It’s Mom’s kitchen.” But Dad, she’s not coming back to clean it out. Just throw it. What will she care? We are the ones eating out of this fridge and cooking in this kitchen. But it’s so strange to think that because she was here less than 24 hours ago assuming she would be the one cooking and now, she will never come back to this food she bought.
Her computer was littered with sticky notes in her handwriting indicating logins and passwords for the accounts she had set up after grandpa couldn’t pay bills anymore.
Her purse was still out ready to go to the store.
Her cell phone was plugged in on the counter and it went off every few hours with Facebook alerts, news bulletins and messages from people who didn’t know her condition.
The house phone rang and I answered it. It was pest control. I was amazed that life could go on when she was in the hospital – dying. The pest control lady didn’t know but shouldn’t the whole world go on hold while grandma took her last breaths?
But it doesn’t.
That’s what I learned.
No matter how good or bad a person you were in life, your passing will not stop earth from turning. Family will mourn you and your life will have had an effect on everyone – good or bad. Family will sit by your bedside and hang on every breath – hoping that you will get better or just die because they can’t take seeing you suffer. The guilt of hoping for a swift death will weigh on everyone – no matter their connection to you.
But the world goes on no matter what. I keep on doing the laundry here at her house. My mom and uncle water the plants. We fill the refrigerator and continue to use grandma’s house while we plan a memorial service and wait by her bedside for her to die or get better.
And then… she’s gone. And she’s not coming back here to this house. She will never sit in her rose garden again and she will never watch Jeopardy and mumble the answers under her breath. But we will remember all this about her – and talk about it someday without weeping – and live our lives because… what else can we do?
Driving in a small town can be so frustrating. If you cut someone off accidentally, most likely you’ve offended your next door neighbor’s cousin or your doctor or someone else that’s going to make you regret it later. You rarely see the road rage you do in large cities though. I’ve never been flipped off in my town by some angry driver.
You can always tell the out-of-towners in a small town. Besides the fact that their car doesn’t fit the culture of the town, they are driving crazy slow looking down each street trying to find something. They usually end up in the drive through for McDonalds because they are afraid of the hole in the wall places that line the main street.
Worse yet must be the embarrassment of being pulled over in this town. EVERYONE KNOWS YOU! You will not escape being asked what the incident was or why you were spread eagle on the hood of Officer so-and-so’s squad car.
Just something to think about if you ever move to a small town.
Today I needed to call a number I never had called before. I’m usually pretty good with this but let’s blame this one on pregnancy brain, ok?
So I dial.
“This is Air Force Space Command. General (somebody) speaking.” IN THE MOST ED HARRIS VOICE EVER!!!!
AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!! “Ummmm… I’m looking for Dr. Peterson of the Foot and Ankle Clinic?”
He was not some lowly secretary answering phones at the civilian contact office. This was a GENERAL who’s direct line I had happened upon.”This is Air Force Space Command. You definitely have the wrong number!”
But to me it sounded like, “Breach! National Security! Someone GPS this lady and send out those awesome black unmarked SUV’s to pick her up and interrogate her!”
“Sorry?” I hung up red faced and walked out to make sure we weren’t being drone struck.
I got your backs, people!
There is something about living in a small town or going to a small church or whatever that seems to give the older generation a feeling they have a right to have expectations of us younger people. Not only can they have these expectations but they can voice them whenever they feel the urge and dole out unsolicited advice. Ok, I’m all about learning from those who have gone before but there are some things that I think should change.
For example, why are we expected to get married? Why is it that every little lady in the church feels the need to set up anyone who is single? Have you thought maybe we like being single? Maybe we want to be free! Or maybe there is pain that cannot be explained and needs to be left alone. If we want to be set up, we’ll ask.
Or how about when we do get married and at the reception we start getting the question, “When are you going to start a family?” Excuse me… I thought I just did. I just got a spouse. What if I don’t want the responsibility of kids? What if I can’t have kids? STOP PRAYING FOR ME TO HAVE KIDS!
Or how about after we actually do produce offspring and everyone wants to know when you are going to have that kid a sibling?! REALLY?!!!!
If you think society has changed, great but there is definitely a generation that thinks this progression is the only way to live life and frankly, it’s not.
I’m a wife, mother and I chose all that but I know people who want to be single. I know people who choose to not have children because they want to have a career. I know people who have no choice.
People in small towns expect their kids to take over the family business, they expect their young people to play on the football team, and especially in this agricultural area – to farm!
Should all these expectations really be put on our young people? Should we really be asking them questions like, “When are you going to settle down?”
When I was struggling, I was in MOPS and a small group. They were both different. MOPS is moms mostly of the sameish age who support each other and it’s great. The small group was mostly made up of women who’s children were between high school age and my age. They were old enough to be my mother. I was the baby of the group at 32. But when I needed people to say that my life was going to be ok, it was the small group women – who had been through cancer, divorce, pain, loss, life – who I believed.
Here in this town, there is a small university with a couple of professors who have been stirring up stuff. They give lectures that glamorize the 60’s and the free love movement. However, there are people who lived through that time and were hard working, real people who remember the riots and the disease and the terror. Those small town people tell me about the reality of the 60’s in this town and I believe them more than any imported professor from New York or Boston. Sorry….
My mother had polio. Grandmother had it as well.
They know what the fear of that disease was like. They know how detrimental the recovery was. They know what it means for a preventable disease to be eradicated.
My clients often are those who lived through the depression. They know what a REAL depression is like. They understand what it is to have a job and make money and support a family because work is available. They are not entitled.
In my small town world, experience matters. In my mind, those who have gone before are the only ones to be believed. Sometimes, it’s hard because you can’t get them to figure out the remote or their phone but they are Generation Wise. That matters more.
*All Images Found on Google
In a small town, a newcomer takes a while to understand the culture and can often feel on the outside of the community for a while. Try getting a job in a small town. It’s not easy because all the businesses are small and they are hiring their sisters or cousins or friends. A job may be advertised in the local paper but only because legally it has to be. They have already made up their minds who they are going to hire and they are just going through the motions. It’s hard to break in. Sometimes it takes time but mostly it takes getting involved and making friends. Small town people are not going to come to you, you have to go to them.
The secret to breaking the walls down is to sit down in the coffee shop and talk to people. It’s introducing yourself to a church community and going to a small group or volunteering at the local homeless shelter. It’s getting into a writers group or hitting all the garage sales and asking the families about their treasures. It’s striking up a conversation and listening to the stories that make the community stick together. It’s reading the local paper and attending events such as high school football games, planetarium shows, Kiwanis pancake breakfasts and community forums.
You don’t have to be on the outside for long if you don’t want to be. To make friends, you must show yourself friendly.
There is a coffee shop I go to. I’m getting to be kind of a regular there. The lady who owns it recognizes me now. There is a group of old guys that get together there and chat about life. They discuss the towns business and undoubtedly they have seen our little hamlet change and morph in ways I can only imagine. When I see them, I imagine they are like a group of Jewish leaders getting together by the gate of the city and discussing politics and theology. They have seen so much in the world. I notice when someone is not in the group anymore. I know if one has gone into a nursing home or died. More come and take their place. It’s comforting to see that this community will be there when I’m of retirement age… I hope.
Will our generation be this tight in real life or will we sit at home posting to Facebook or whatever social media has taken it’s place?
Will it matter that I live in a small town then? Will we have practiced spending time together in real life enough to spend our retirement connecting in a way we never could when we were child laden, working and bustling around the world? Or will we be so out of practice in seeing another human face to face that we will hole up in our homes and not know how to function?
For now… I’m going to get a bit of sleep before my world starts to spin out of control in the morning. *all images found on google
I grew up in this town. We moved here when I was 8 and the majority of my early childhood was spent in what we still call “the big house.” We lived on 5 acres of sage brush. We spent a TON of time outside.
We built houses out of tumble weeds and made little trails through the chico, pretending like we were cars speeding around corners. We had a little puddle out back that was deep enough to float a blow up raft in and we spend hours paddling around in it. Whenever we were angry, we “ran away” across the field to a neighbors house who would give us a cookie and call our mother to let her know where we were.
We road bikes up and down the dirt road, visiting neighbors and speeding past a house where there was a mean dog that chased us every time. We named him Saddam Hussein. Politically incorrect? Maybe. Our dogs name was George Bush (the first one).
The one time I remember our parents really playing with us, not just taking us somewhere or facilitating play, but actually playing with us, was the Family Olympics where the got cards with numbers and kept score and we kids participated in foot races around the yard and jumping contests and ice skating on the puddle. It was amazing.
Once, when my parents had a bunch of friends over and the kids were left to their own devices, we used our kite string to make a giant spider web around the whole living room.
Truth: Childhood doesn’t have to be perfect and your kids don’t need to be entertained by you. Let them enjoy their imaginations. Let them come up with their own stuff. They won’t die or be stunted.