I’m sitting on porch steps with my cousin. We are people-watching in a town about the size of an area rug.
A man is blowing leaves off his driveway. The leaf-blower is filling the neighborhood with noise. They say he’s addicted to yardwork. Poor man.
Miss Elvira is walking her Labrador, Webster, on the sidewalk. The dog is stronger than he looks. The leash looks like it’s about to snap in two. He’s pulling Elvira like Twenty-Mule-Team Borax.
She waves at us. I haven’t seen Miss Elvira since I was nine. My cousin and I picked pinecones in her yard long ago while singing an anthem by the Oak Ridge Boys about her.
Hi-ho, Silver, away.
Peter Stepnowski is poking in his garage. Peter has white hair, thick glasses, and wears tube socks with sandals.
Please Lord, no matter how old I get, don’t let me wear tube socks and sandals.
A delivery truck. A FedEx man jogs the sidewalk, up the steps to the Delanie’s porch. He’s carrying an odd-shaped box that makes every elderly busybody within a six-mile radius become curious.
Take my aunt, for instance, she is curious.
Four girls walk the sidewalk wearing soccer uniforms. School is out. They have backpacks on shoulders. They’re deep in conversation. Faces serious. They’re solving world problems.
One of the girls is Karin. I remember when her parents announced in Sunday school they were expecting a third baby.
Karin waves. She calls me “Mister Sean.” Those words sound ancient.
Life is moving slow today. That’s how it works in little places.
I was in the big city last week. I rode through five-o’clock traffic, gripping my steering wheel so hard my knuckles popped—I’m lucky I survived.
I watched a transfer truck amputate a Nissan’s side-mirror. I saw two near-accidents, fifteen cop cars, and a whole bucket of middle fingers.
Big places aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
My good friend Tom just left the big city and moved back to his hometown in North Carolina. He has a two-year-old girl, and a five-year-old boy. His wife left him for a member of the country club.
Tom swore he’d never move back. Never. Long ago, he claimed he was through living in a place where everyone knew your business. Funny how time softens people.
Truth be told, he was ashamed to be moving back—which is why he hadn’t told anyone. Not even his saintly mother. But there are no secrets in small towns.
No way. No how.
Last week, his U-Haul rolled past the city-limit sign doing thirty-five. He drove over the old bridge. Over the train tracks. He parked at his rental house.
His kid pointed out the window, saying, “Who’re those guys?”
Eighteen of his high-school classmates sat in the driveway. They wore work clothes and work gloves. Their wives had casseroles in the kitchen. Their kids played in the backyard. The beer cooler was stocked.
Some folks can’t wait to get away from home. And that’s alright, I suppose. They have places to go, and big things to do. Maybe they’re tired of hearing leaf blowers.
But whoever you are, wherever you are, I hope you know that no matter how far from home you find yourself tonight, there are people who love you.
I’m one of them.