Tuesday, February 23, 2010

What is it about small towns?

I've blogged a few times about my brother-in-law, Curtis 
(http://all-en-a-days-work.blogspot.com/2009/09/my-cowboy-heroes.html).  He and my sister, Doris, have been in love for over 45 years.  Theirs was the first wedding I ever attended and one of my favorite childhood pictures is me standing by the cake in the basement of the Methodist church, waiting for a piece (I remember my mom making their wedding cake in her restaurant and I have a sneaking hunch she's standing close by at the reception reminding me not to touch it).  So many of my childhood memories include Doris and Curtis -  summer days on the ranch they managed, riding horses, gathering eggs, celebrating family holidays, branding cattle, watching rodeos, playing in the barns.  Isn't it amazing how your work ethic, your understanding of relationships, your beliefs are somehow grounded in those with whom you spent the most time - watching, observing, wondering?  I think about those days often.
     Eventually, Doris and Curtis moved to my hometown and bought a small plot of land on the border of town.  Now my hometown is more theirs than mine.  Their "Denver-square" sits proudly on the property's edge, 100 years and counting.  Doris and Curtis were the caretakers of my mom and dad in their later years and for that I'll always be grateful (they lived a mile away).  Curtis and Doris were the drivers, the shoppers, the lawn mowers, the nurses, the gentle ears that heard the complaints, the stories, the wonderings, the final contemplations of both mom and dad in their golden years.  Doris and Curtis were the self-appointed decision-makers, the caretakers, the huggers, the hand-holders.  They watched the tears flow down the wrinkled cheeks of the two people we loved the most as they told their life stories, both sad and happy.  They were there when both mom and dad drew their final breaths, with prayers and tears of their own.
     They've taken over the role of "patriarch and matriarch" of our family.  They now the host family gatherings and get-togethers when we venture back to our hometown.  
     Right now they are both being stretched, physically and mentally, as Curtis deals with another bout of cancer.  Trips back and forth to the nearest hospital, 36 miles away.  Treatments that zap energy and challenge faith.  Treatments that cost money and stretch the budget.  Treatments that require one to garner strength and face new unknowns.  Treatments that leave many unanswered questions.
     This Saturday, February 27th, the community is having a spaghetti dinner in the high school commons to benefit Curtis' care and treatment.  Once again, the folks in this small town in southeastern Colorado are coming together (thanks initially to a few church members) to help.  What is it about small towns?  Folks dealing with their own struggles, always seem to gather to help one of their own.  The fliers are handed out and folks are gathering up their hard-earned pennies, nickles, and dimes.  Saturday, they'll meet in the same room that's held these kinds of benefits before and drop their offerings into the basket... but this time it's for someone who holds a special place in my heart.  Barring a blizzard, I plan to be there too.  Sharing a plate of spaghetti... all for the benefit for a great brother-in-law, father, grandfather, and friend!

I found this piece of writing in a file and thought it captures hometown life perfectly:
Small town life is something to be treasured. Some may see it as a nuisance, while others, a joy.
It has its quiet moments, it has it roaring moments.
The seasons resonate with care, wanting to be noticed for what they are, beauty.
People cross paths with smiles and well wishes, for recognition is not an issue.
During the days of summer, doors are left open, with only a screen to protect from the outer elements.
During the days of winter, quiet reigns. In the evening, the gentle fall of snow is all that resonates.
Town meeting places are the local institutions and shopping areas. Conversations often begin at the local post office or grocery store. Rarely is a face unrecognized. Smiles and handshakes are part of the ritual of grocery shopping or mail pick-up.
Children play freely, without the restrictions or worries of city life. The moon and stars are the only light for a child to play by, and oh how bright they are.
Summers are too short in a small town.
Winters are never long enough. Often, the firelight is the only light by which to converse by.
Kids grow up with an all too familiarity. A bond develops that reflects the small town values. And out of that, a camaraderie, an understanding of the shared values of where they're from.
The camaraderie never ends. They know home is the small town.
Even when those children have moved on and grown up, they are still drawn to memories of that small town.
The townspeople celebrate the seasons together, commemorating that which is summer, fall, spring, and winter.
During the winter celebration, carolers are enjoyed for they are acquaintances.
During the summer months, long walks are cherished and enjoyed.
The world is small in such a town. The distance between the school, the store, and other seeming necessities is condensed into a short distance, nothing that can't be negotiated with a walk.
For a child in a small town, life is simple.
The world for a child is the short distance between the school yard and home.
Bike rides home from school are quiet and traffic free for there is one main road that runs through town. This road is avoided. There are numerous side routes to take in order to achieve your goal.
Life in a small town is gentle, serene, cordial, and hospitable.
I'm glad to have a treasure such as those memories of my small town. 
from newsvine.com


  1. Patrick,
    I have goosebumps from your writing. It is powerful the way your memory from long ago is tied to the present day. I especially like your line: "your beliefs are somehow grounded in those with whom you spent the most time - watching, observing, wondering." I'm thankful for the many people who are rallying in support of Curtis & Doris. And, like you, I'm very thankful for small town life. (You've inspired me to write about it.)

    May I invite you to link this post to the Slice of Life Challenge on Two Writing Teachers today so others may be touched by your powerful story? Thanks for sharing, Ruth

  2. Thank you for sharing Curtis's story with us today. I used to live in NYC, where communities banding together around someone didn't often happen. Now that I live in a smaller town in PA, I've seen this power. Like Ruth, I, too, am glad the community is rallying behind Curtis since he has stood up for so many people before.

  3. My prayers, stirred by your writing, are for Curtis this morning.

  4. Allen-

    Small town communities do come together in hard times, but I have seen it happen here in Denver. A few years ago my brother was in a tragic accident> Our family spent many months at Swedish and Craig Hospital. During those months my parent's neighbors dropped off meals and walked the dog. The most touching was from their next door neighbor. They had never really spoken (the downside of suburban living), but this family brought over meals, mowed my parents lawn and scooped the snow.

    I believe that it is humanity that comes together, be it in a small town or in a big city. It is also children having teachers like you that teach them how to be a citizen.

    My thoughts are with your family.

  5. Thanks for all the great comments on this blog entry. Kyle, you're right... it really is about community and the strength of the people around us! It's caring about one another in unique and wonderful ways!