wine by the color

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Well I was born in a small town
And I live in a small town
Prob’ly die in a small town

This morning, I decided that rather than drive to the gym, I’d run in the local park. It was a nice, crisp morning and the pollen count was blissfully low, so out I went.

Usually, while I’m on the treadmill at the gym, I amuse myself by criticizing the god-awful closed-captioning skills of the National Broadcasting Company’s early morning staffers. Outside, however, that option isn’t available, and while avoiding the trifecta of dog, deer and goose crap on the running path did give my eyes something to do, it didn’t occupy my thoughts.

Fortunately, running around the park’s paved path in the town where I have lived most of my 35 years provided plenty of memories … parking in the lot where my high-school boyfriend and I were once scurried away by law enforcement late at night (really, we were just talking) … running around the baseball fields where KJ and I were the only two girls to play Little League (the third girl, Nancy, does not count because she used to jump rope behind the bench and had to be dragged onto the field to actually play) ... around the soccer fields where KJ and I were probably also the only girls to suit up every fall … by my middle school across the street from the park, where my basketball team once beat our cross-town rival 56-0 and where I played an Indian in a theatrical production of Tumbleweeds … through the park where everyone would operate the spinning wheel of death in the hopes of making a rider hurl … past the pond where we ice skated as kids … past the tennis courts where I took lessons some 25 years ago.

The Colonel and I were discussing the longevity of my locality the other day. We went to the local minor-league baseball park Sunday to watch Crazy Nephew #1 walk on the field in a season-ending parade for our town’s Little Leaguers. When you live in the same place for 35 years, you don’t go far without running into a variety of familiar faces. On Sunday, those faces included my high-school softball coach; an old friend with whom I attended both school and church for 13 years and his parents, who still live around the corner from my brother; and a high-school friend who is now a cop in town.

On the other hand, the Colonel grew up just outside this country’s largest city, briefly moved to a very small town, later moved to the second-largest U.S. city, and eventually returned east to reside firmly in the heart of NYC. So he was questioning what it’s like to live in the same small town for essentially one’s entire life. Well, so far. (Although, the townhouse I considered buying a few months ago was all of 0.4 miles from my current abode, so it doesn’t seem like I have any aspirations to spread my wings too far.)

Anyway, if you told me 19 years ago (holy crap – I graduated 19 years ago? How is that possible?) that I would not only be living in my hometown but quite happy being there, I’d have told you to get bent. But here I am. And I am not alone.

Back in the day, our plan was “to leave this boring town as soon as we can and never come back.” Until you get a driver’s license around here, there aren’t a lot of options for a teenager. The movie theater, the bowling alley, the mall, even the grocery store back in those days, were all out of town and thus required driving. Oh, we did have a drive-in theater. Other than that, we were resigned to gathering in basements and hanging out in fields around town. And while we had a lot of good times, this uneventful existence led to a lot of big-city dreams and vows to leave after graduation and never return.

When I graduated from college five years later, that master plan lasted three months for me. I got a job in Columbus and planned to make that my home. Then, I came home for Memorial Day weekend, realized how much I missed Jersey and moved home a month later. And have been here ever since.

Over the years, I’ve realized how many of us are either back in town or still around. A few weeks ago, we attended the older nephew’s Little League opening-day ceremony, and I was amazed at how many familiar faces I saw. Almost every time I visit the grocery store or the local dive bar, I see someone I know. I went to kindergarten with my pharmacist.

As I said to the Colonel, still living in my small town might make me insane except for three things: 1) because I travel so much for my job, I get to see other places and meet new people, which provides new experiences and at the same time makes me happy to have somewhere familiar to call home; 2) I did leave for a few years (for college) and then returned. So I know what it’s like to live somewhere else, even if I didn’t stay there for long; and 3) I just really like it here. The lack of activity that drove me nuts as a teenager now offers a nice change of pace after long days at work and even longer days on the road. I’m close to the city and the beach, my family and friends, and it’s safe enough that I can leave my front door wide open overnight, as I learned a few months ago.

As I ran this morning, Mellencamp’s “Small Town” randomly hit the iPod airwaves.

Yeah, I can be myself here in this small town
And people let me be just what I want to be

Yep. I’m okay with that.


Post a Comment

<< Home