Wine Before Five
Make The Ordinary Be Extraordinary.
Country singers write about tractor parades, county fairs and the old fishing hole, homecoming queens and pickup trucks, and the special things about small towns. But there’s so much more to living in a small town. You can’t just sing about it; you have to really live it to know what it’s all about.
This morning I saw a Facebook post that was truly “small town.” The comments that followed shouted from the roof tops “SMALL TOWN!” The clever & talented entrepreneur who owns a small shop in the middle of the village posted that she had fresh sweet corn from her Dad’s farm for sale in front of her store today. Quaint. But then there was the conversation thread: How long would she be there today? Would she hold a dozen ears for someone? Of course! You might find sweet corn at a farmer’s market in New York City or Dallas, but you can be sure it wasn’t picked this morning by the owner of a shop not selling produce, on her Dad’s farm that’s only minutes away, and you can be darned sure no one will put aside a dozen ears for you & hold them ’til you get there. In a small town, you get not only sweet corn, fresh-picked sweet corn, but also grown-and-delivered-with-love-and-yes-I’ll-hold-a dozen-ears-for-you sweet corn.
I grew up here. I knew it was a small town when I left at nineteen, and when I returned at 42. Perhaps the years away, in cities and suburbs, in the northeast and the south, and Texas – yes, Texas has to have its own label because it’s more than just “south” – had dimmed my memory. Being related to at least half the population of this town only enhances the charm. But there are certain things here I find amazing, and enchanting.
As we pulled into the parking lot of our favorite local mom-n-pop restaurant a couple of summers ago, there was a woman standing beside her car in her swimming suit, pulling on her clothes. Wilma smiled & commented, “You know you live in a small town when you can get dressed in the parking lot.” That little mom-n-pop restaurant, though, is the place to go if you need to get caught up on what’s new in town while you have a quick soup and sandwich. Actually, we often have what we call “rolling lunches” there. Two or three of us arrive, eat half our meal, a couple of relatives come in & we push another table up to ours, half an hour later we order some coffee & pie then some in-laws arrive, so we move to the larger table in the room… and two or three hours later we all decide we ought to get back to the business at hand. One afternoon during a rolling lunch, I lost track of time. The restaurant phone rang, a waitress looked at the caller ID, and called out, “Emma Ann, this is probably your daughter. School’s out now.” Yep, those were pre-cell phone days, and my middle-school daughter knew exactly where to find me.
The waitresses know the customers by name, and your iced tea, ice water, or coffee is usually on the table before you’ve sat down, let alone ordered. I have even seen a waitress stand, holding a tray with our drinks poured, waiting for us to pick a table. “The usual?” is a common opener, but always followed with “How have you been?! Heard your son graduated/daughter got engaged/niece’s wedding is this weekend…” Once, a group of about eight of us were having lunch, our meals already on the table, when my brother-in-law joined us. An iced tea was delivered without him saying a word. Conversation was lively, and there was lots of laughter. Halfway through his meal, he looked at his plate and asked “Did I order this?” No, actually, he hadn’t, but he was eating it happily, and they just knew what he would have ordered… if he had ordered.
Best story of all about that sweet little mom-n-pop restaurant, though, is from about three years ago. My daughter, Wilma and I both had terrible colds, bronchitis, and were on prescriptions. We phoned in a soup and sandwich order, and Wilma went to pick it up. She returned with a heart warmed smile, to say that the owner asked how we all were, saw how pale she was,, doubled the size of the chicken soup order and gave it to her for free, saying, “Now you two feel better soon!” Where else on earth can you have your local restaurant owner fill in as “Mom” when you need good chicken soup to cure a cold?
Of course, we have the typical systems of communication here as well, including the US Postal Service, phones…
The mail delivery system has to be better in small towns than anywhere else on earth:
*Once I got a call from a neighbor three doors down that she had my mail & would drop it off right away if I was going to be home. She brought me fresh nut bread along with my mail.
*Once my mail was delivered to people on a different street, who had the same house number as ours. They didn’t just put it back in their mailbox or toss it in a mailbox in front of the Post Office. They, too, called and delivered it.
*Mail addressed to my brother-in-law’s office, which had no mailbox, was delivered to our house. Not his house; our house. I have no doubt they knew he’d lose it at home, and they were right. I took it to his office. I know the routine now.
*I once requested college information for a nephew, and gave his name – a different last name than mine — but my home address. It was addressed exactly the way I’d requested, but the local postal service, knowing him & where he lived, delivered it to his house. On another street. If that’s not efficiency, I just don’t know what is. “Why look here, Jimmy is getting mail from OSU, but they’ve got his Aunt Emma Ann’s address on here instead of his. No problem, just toss this in that other carrier’s bag & we’ll take it on up to his house.”
I’ve told friends not to worry about my street address – just put my name & the village name & correct zip code on a letter, and the Post Office will be sure it gets delivered – most of the time correctly, but – somewhere here in town, and if that happens to be the wrong house, no problem. The people who live there will re-deliver my mail. And maybe bring me nut bread, too.
Making phone calls is easy here, easier than in any city. Once I got a wrong number. “Sandy?” “No Sandy here.” “Oh, So sorry. I must have the wrong number.” “Well, who are you looking for?” (Seriously?) “Uh… Sandy Jones…” “Oh, Sandy Jones lives on the other side of town. Wait a minute I’ll get you her number.” “Gee, that’s not necessary, I must have just mis-dialed. I was calling 555-5556. Is that your number?” “Yep, that’s our number, but you need Sandy…hang on just a minute, I’m looking. Got the phone book right here.” (Really?) “So who did you say you are?” “… … I’m Emma Ann Weatherly…” “Oh, Emma Ann! I heard you folks moved back to town! So now your mother was Irene, right? I remember when she worked at the bakery… Oh, wait a minute. Here it is. You try Sandy Jones at 555-5566. Yeah, she lives over on the other side of town, and you know her husband, Jerry, I bet. Went to school with your older brother…” Somehow, her living on the other side of town seemed to be a really important point in why I got the wrong number, but I’m not sure why. However, I got the correct number, didn’t even have to check the phone book, and made a new friend who knew my mother and brother… I have no clue who I was talking to. Whitepages.com has nothing on small town phone networks.
So if you think you’d like to get your mail delivered right to your door – maybe with some fresh homemade nut bread thrown in – no matter what course it’s taken before getting there, get directory assistance from a friendly person on the other end of a wrong number, have some free chicken noodle soup when you’ve got a cold, or maybe have the local candle-maker hold a dozen ears of fresh-picked sweet corn for you until you’re off work later today, you might want to consider moving to a small town, where keeping in touch is like nowhere else.