I drive twenty minutes every Thursday to a small town off I-44 so that my children can take piano lessons for a discounted rate from a really fabulous teacher. I drop one child off at lessons and then drive the other three to the downtown library. The library is off the main street and resides in an old storefront building that has been rehabbed. The sad thing is instead of leaving the facade the natural red brick they stuckoed the facade gray and white. It looks nice but screams, we have no taste. I paid a fifteen dollar fee to use the little library and it is quite sweet and so are the librarians, whom have taken late fees off my card and not said a word to me about loosing a book. There are usually no patrons or maybe a couple of elderly men reading the paper, so I feel like I must be the highlight of the libraries afternoon. Levi usually pushes a few rows of books all the way back on the shelves and throws a couple movies around before I decide we have given the librarian enough reshelving work to do.
A few times I have visited the little coffehouse downtown and have purchased food and beverages for myself and the children to help while away the time between lessons. The owner of the establishment, I’ll call him George for his uncanny likeness to Star Wars creator George Lucas, always comes over and welcomes me and asks about the weather. On one such eating occasion the children and I sat eating our chili and drinking our smoothies when a very shabby, time worn fellow sauntered in and seated himself at the bar. Apparently it was not his first visit to the coffehouse and he was looking for something, most likely something with alcohol in its content. George dealt with the man and escorted him out quickly and not so quietly. Then George announced an apology to the entire cafe and spoke to me directly asking if I was going to come back. So that was pretty uncomfortable and weird. I realized that this is the sort of out right behavior and communication that I grew up with. People aren’t afraid to just say it like it is, they’re proud of there business and bend over backwards to make their patrons happy. Yes, I’ve gone back and George is always happy to see me. I love small town folk, they are so real.
Sometimes I drive around the town and look at property that is for sale. I’ve been looking at lots in the downtown area and dreaming of establishing an adorable neighborhood of bungalows. That dream was a bit flattened when I found out the area is in a 500 year flood plain and all the property needs to be elevated 48 or more inches. Some people have done this and the result is five feet of exposed concrete on top of the property that has been built up to resemble a mole hill. I would still like to get involved in some sort of revitalization of that downtown area, it is so worthy. But…
On the opposite end of town urban sprawl is at its best. Large subdivisions are springing up with McMansions looming on the once green pastures. What must the farmer be doing with all the money he was paid by the developers? Is he retired and resting his weary back? Is he vacationing in the Ozarks, fishing, golfing (no, farmers don’t golf), hunting perhaps? Did he buy his wife that new sectional for the family room she’s been looking at for the past 25 years? Maybe he was finally able to pay back the agricultural loans from that drought back in ’64. I don’t know, I just hope he doesn’t mind stepping out on his back porch in the early morning to view the sun rise over the barn and notice he doesn’t have a barn anymore because Fred and Wanda moved into their 6500 square foot home and built a ten foot privacy fence where that red barn used to stand. Not to mention the shock Mr. Farmer would get to see Fred in his boxers staring out the third story wall of windows frowning at the unsightly little white farm house that just needs to be bulldozed so the country club can put in the next nine holes.
I caved one Thursday and decided to tour the developers showcase homes. I had Ellen, Isaac and Levi with me. Ellen was wearing her cowboy boots, jeans and t-shirt and any other day I would have thought she was as cute as a bug, this day as we walked into the showcase home I scanned my children and took inventory of the flock; Ellen-hick farm girl, Isaac-torn jeans-dirty shirt, Levi-just spit up red smoothie on his light blue shirt. They all looked a bit rough, and me, well, I was wearing blue jeans an old t-shirt and no make up with my hair in a ponytail. Clay gave me a little diamond necklace for my birthday and I was stupidly thinking if I was wearing my necklace I would look presentable and people would think I have a right to be here. I’ll pause while you all make fun of me….I know I know (sigh), I’m pathetic.
The McMansions were nice with there tiny yards and the proximity of the neighbors a booger flick away. I don’t belong there. I won’t visit that side of town again. I like the old stuff. I like the farmer’s house. Maybe Mr. Farmer and Mable will sell it to me and I’ll rebuild the barn in front of that wall. I’ll take a basket of wildflowers and garden produce over to Fred and Wanda as a peace offering.