Small Town: Redux

*(Lookin' fer Haiku Monday? It's at Ether Capacious (click here))

She used to hep me some, even after she got herself hitched up to the red-est headed man I ever laid eyes on to this day.

We had us a routine, an' unnerstandin', that, when need be, she could go look in on her grandmama, out to the lake whar' the ole' lady lived on after Grandpapa died.

We learnt to work around her need to check on the folks her own mama abandoned--this sprig of girl wif' a bent toward classic literature an' the need to bring order to the world of chaos into which she'd been born.

Lily-chile' ( as I will call her here) never counted it misfortune to enter this world through a nest made by a pair of wayward crows. Buzzards mebbe. Lily bloomed through the hard scrabble childhood, watered here an' thar' by these heartbroke ole' folks who would intervene where they might. Favor smiled on the threesome, they made their own bond. She went to a famed collich on scholarship, got edoocated, then came on home to find some way to work close to her grandparents as they declined. Reckon y'all knows that they ain't much work fer a girl conversant wif' literature but not wif' bidness. No matter, she sold her hobby-made jewelery, took jobs to hep folks like Aunty, an generally made do.

After hitchin', the young pair would come fer dinner an a board game. Uncle ain't one fer such as that, be he loved Lily, too, an' wanted her to know she an her young husband was welcome fer work or fer play. Soon enough she came in one mornin' wearin' a goofy smile an' we knowed in a few months she's goin' to have a fledgling in her own nest. Only this would be a goodly ordered nest.

The new family needed room--cheap room--to grow. They pulled up stakes an moved out west of us'uns to an ole' citrus processin' town thas' mostly abandoned after so many freezes that Orange county bulldozed the groves ...an' orange roofs is all the orange y'all is likely to see.

Like most of modern exurbia, the original settlement was crumblin' at the ole brick crossroad "downtown" last time I wuz through thar', mebbe a decade ago. Meanwhile, out whar' the state widened the highway that passes the town by, a jungle of strip malls an' burger arches an' Auto Zones an' U-Pump-It stations done made the same generic blight that wearies folks from Florida to Oregon. I'se heartsick to see 'em go live in the midst of such. It warn't fittin'.

Now thar's three redheaded peeps in less than five years.

"Aunty, come on out heah an' visit me some. Y'ain't seen wee Zoe an' her be three months ole already."

I made it to the turn off from the big highway into the ole town, a'tween a chain pharmacy an' pea green Army surplus depot. North fer a mile, past a new prison architecture school, an 1980s car dealer lots. Mah heart knotted up tight afore comin' to cross over the ole rail bed...when thangs seemed to tidy up some. I reached the turn off to Lily's street.

A few blocks in the houses is neat but not violated wif' modernization: Ole clapboard cottages wif' ancient live oaks hoverin' over them. Wide,long lawns, shady an' cool, slope gently toward the lake half mile away. The homes is modest, lovingly kept, human sized--no starter mansions. I knowed that these owners was
lovers--they loved their little piece of this former ghost town. Inside I imagined folks were livin' wif' out the pressure to "make it big."

"We can jes' stroll the baby to town an have a salad at the Main Street Bistro, if thas' alright wif' ya' Aunty?"

I cain't recall when I'se been so charmed! In four short blocks we arrived at a town square whar' the train station is preserved an' a yellow caboose sits proudly out front. In the middle of the square a splashin' fountain adds to the sense of cool breezes from the trees never chopped down to widen the brick roads. Local merchants is local. No chain bookstore, but a pipe shop cum bookstore. Thar' wuz bicycles in a black iron rack out of the Soda Fountain Shoppe. The movie house featured a family favorite. Young men in khakis an' sport shirts discussed bidness at outdoor tables next to Aunty an' Lily an' baby. I seemed to havestepped into a reverie from the 1950s, a Rockwellian tableau.

It wuz unmistakable: This heah wuz a community. A real, human size community whar' it's folks had a sense of belongin' to it, an to each other.

Full up wif' mah bistro panini of pork, grilled green apple an' gorgonzola ( Yesssss, I did sorta hope fer a "blue plate special" but the panini was decent comfort, I will say), I kissed Lily an' baby redhead good bye when she had to fetch her boy from kinder-play. After a spell of watchin' this li'l miracle of regeneration, I slurped the rest of mah sweet tea an' got in mah buggy to head back up the road home--all the while thinkin' that towns like this is a better future, an some very visionary young folks sought it out, made it what it should be, a blend of the new wif' the human-scale values that Aunty feard wuz


Sharon Rudd said...

Oh, Aunty. How I have missed you and your tales!

There can be such a lovely connection between old and new, and this post of yours told that story sweetly. Community, wherever you find it - or contribute to it - is a right special thing.

I'm still smiling after a special gathering last night. Got some of my bff's to join me for a crawfish fest that knocked everyone's socks off. Working on a blog post, but photos up on fb (I hope this link works):


xoxo, eggy

Pam said...

Aunty! I love this story. And I also used the word "reverie" today in my post. And am glad to see that I spelled it correctly, or at least cracker-y. Here in OK, we have "main street communities" where folks come together and do what they can to save these wonderful old main streets with new local businesses and refurbishments. I think a lot of towns have their chain stores, but the simpler life is alive ... struggling but hanging in there. Great to see such a post from you! Hope you and uncle are doing well.

fishy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
fishy said...

I love it when you share the local lore with us. Did those three babes get blessed with the redest hair ever from their dad?

I am a supporter of niche communities which nurture. There are indicators in the design-architecture-development trade publications which generate hope on this front.

In our location, there are council members who are lobbying hard to bring "national retailers" to our quaint, one of a kind restaurant and retail main street. There is a group of us who show up regularly to council meetings to protest and, to
encourage them to offer incentives to the Mom and Pop businesses NOT the mass retailers. Recently a proposed zoning change was defeated. We celebrated. Sadly, our downtown theatre was demolished to make room for yet another bank.

Did you go back to see GWTW on the big screen?

moi said...

"Niche communities that nurture." I like that. And I like this story. It's heartening to know that places like this still exist or are being reinvented. There are neighborhoods in Albuquerque that certainly fit into this category and if we were to move back to the city, that's where we'd go.

Buzz Kill said...

Nice story. We have a couple towns in the area like this, but I think they are more "faux" home towns because they tend to be a little touristy.

Aunty Belle said...


Firefox update is HORRIBLE. Now nothin' looks the same an' I'se nail spittin' mad.

Ok, thas' off mah chest... on to funner thangs>

We need more gtherin's whar folks is neihbors an convivial--makes fer good community. Crawfish jes' happens to be real good excuse to gather. Heh.


Hey GranMamatobe! I hear ya'-the simple life, is it jes' a reverie?


Niche communities that nurture--no kiddin'! Ain't that an idea whose time done come? Whyn't ya design us a prototype community of New-old cottage-y bungalows an bistros?? Wif' wifi of course-- Wouldn't that be fun?


No NO, doan move back to no city. Keep yore distance from Oz.

Yeah, I'se seen some like that--but this one ain't faux, an' thas' why it ain't too slick--whar' does ya live--rural or city or suburb?

Aunty Belle said...


I hate Firefox 4! Had to reinstall the older version. WHY do they keep messin' wif' thangs??

Sharon Rudd said...

You're not the only one frustrated with Firefox 4, Aunty. Yikes, no refresh button? I guess I'm left to use the reload page button. Anyway, thanks for helping me feel like I'm alone in being a bit angry-tudinal on this.


Aunty Belle said...

Eggy, I'se really miffed--I reloaded the old (yep--hated the missing refresh button an the invisible toolbar--what is THAT?) an now all mah "favorites" an quick links is missin'- arrrghhhghrgh!

BTW, next week you MUST enter a Haiku.

Jenny said...

Heyyyyy, I know I commented here last week. :-(

This is one of my favorite posts of the month.