Little Places

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.

Surprise, Tom.

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.

22 comments

  1. Janice Takashima - November 1, 2018 5:57 am

    Dear Sean,

    After 15 years of trying to retire to a small town near where I was a summer baby once upon a time, I realized that I was never going to be able to live that far away from my middle aged kids and teen aged grandson. It was a nice retirement dream but I realized it was not going to work for me after all. So I sold my condo at a good profit and moved back to my house in the city. I joined the senior village and the community center and fixed my mind to enjoy living in the place where my loved ones lived–with enough money left to enjoy visiting my distant friends and relatives and a couple of cruises where I can be spoiled rotten. The time I had spent moving back and forth between homes I can now spend walking around my neighborhood in Seattle where I have lived and worked for most of my life.

    In a way, it is like a small town in my neighborhood.

    Once, on a long sea cruise, I learned that a young couple from Birmingham, Alabama had once parked their camper around the corner from my house for a week while they visited Seattle. I remembered seeing it. If you’re ever visiting in these parts, we live near the zoo. You can park in front of our house.

    Janice Takashima

    Reply
  2. Cathi - November 1, 2018 6:52 am

    Ditto, Sean, DITTO.

    Reply
  3. Nancy Rogers - November 1, 2018 9:13 am

    Sometimes you can go home again, if you go to the right place.

    Reply
  4. Jean - November 1, 2018 10:01 am

    I have always heard…there is no place like home and they are right. I have lived in the same county all my life and there are no plans nor wants to move to any city around. Thank God for small towns filled with mostly good people who do care about you. Love you too Sean!

    Reply
  5. Penn Wells - November 1, 2018 11:17 am

    It says a little bit about what’s happening all around us that hearing the words “I love you” coming from a friend is so startling.

    Just as powerful, or maybe more so, as chemotherapy.

    Reply
  6. Debbie - November 1, 2018 12:13 pm

    “The ache for home is in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” Maya Angelou

    Reply
  7. Peggy Savage - November 1, 2018 12:55 pm

    We all have buckets and dippers. Some people dip all the water out of your bucket while others dip from their bucket to fill yours. Today you’ve filled my bucket to overflowing.. Thank you, Sean.

    Reply
    • Steve Winfield - November 2, 2018 3:28 am

      Great analogy! Sean has quite a habit of that, doesn’t he? I love stopping in for a “fill-up” every morning.

      Reply
  8. Joy Johnson - November 1, 2018 1:10 pm

    Thank you for starting my day with a brief gap in reality. I wish everyone on this planet had access to your words.

    Reply
  9. Carol - November 1, 2018 1:13 pm

    I love you right back☝️❤️

    Reply
  10. Lisa Snuggs - November 1, 2018 1:44 pm

    North Carolina is a great place to call home and “No Place Like Home” is a great song, if I say so myself. I wrote it about my girlfriend who chased big city dreams for more than a decade before going back to middle Tennessee. Please check it out and give me a like: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pedGPbLCc-g

    Reply
  11. Jack Darnell - November 1, 2018 1:48 pm

    When we left it many years ago, Belmont, NC was a small town. BUT, but now? It is just a big bedroom for Charlotte and neighbors don’t know neighbors anymore. That is ‘cept my neighbor Jim Arp who made it to the Rock-a -billy Hall of fame. Yeah we will move back, but I will be wearing tube socks no sandals or shoes…

    Reply
  12. Edna B. - November 1, 2018 3:24 pm

    The world is filled with beauty, but you are right – there’s really no place quite like home. I loved that his class mates came out to help him and the children get moved in. That’s what love is all about. You have a wonderful day Sean, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  13. Mike Guilday - November 1, 2018 3:35 pm

    Change the leaf blower to a leaf rake and you would be in era that I grew up in.

    Reply
  14. Joe Vanden Heuvel - November 1, 2018 4:21 pm

    Thank you Sean.

    Reply
  15. Janie's Jottings - November 1, 2018 4:23 pm

    The tiny town where I spent my summers when I was a kid seemed so dull and boring to me then. The small town where I’ve lived my entire life had the misfortune of being too close to Mr. Disney’s World. It is now experiencing a building and population boom the likes of which we’ve never seen. Home just isn’t home anymore but that tiny town in Georgia where I spent a few weeks each summer as a child has been calling my name. When you’ve always loved your hometown and it disappears bit by bit day by day it is so disheartening. Yay for small towns where you are known and loved. We love you too Sean!

    Reply
  16. Rebecca Lynn Stokes - November 1, 2018 4:58 pm

    Sean, I just wanna say that I love reading your work. I first started reading a year ago when our English teacher at LBW told us we had to read at least 1 memoir every week and write about it. At first I didnt like having to read just because I hate homework. However, after reading your memoirs every week and then seeing you talk at LBW last year I have grown inspired by what you do. I wanna be able to write memoirs about my life and tell my story. So thank you so much for what you do and being an inspiration!

    Reply
  17. Shelton Armour - November 1, 2018 5:16 pm

    There is no place like home. But home is also where you family is…my kids and grandchild. So this home now.

    Reply
  18. Dianne - November 1, 2018 5:34 pm

    We moved out of the big city of Atlanta five years ago to a small town environment, and we haven’t regretted it for a minute!! Growing up in a small town makes one appreciate it all the more!!

    Reply
  19. Mary Ellen Hall - November 2, 2018 12:00 am

    Such a NEAT STORY!!
    I grew up in a somewhat small town, & your story REALLY HIT HOME!! I am one of those people that moved away after high school, then moved back later.
    NO REGRETS!!!❤

    Reply
  20. Kristine Wehrheim - November 2, 2018 12:04 am

    I would have stayed in small town living but my husband’s job took us away! I loved going back but both my parents recently passed- so sad. And please don’t wear tube socks and sandals 🙄

    Reply
  21. Martha Flemister - November 5, 2018 1:46 pm

    Sean, thank you for your funny and nice posts. They are always entertaining and real. From your writing I believe you do love people you haven’t met. How do I know, I love you as well and we have never met. Have a wonderful week.

    The Pineapple Queen of Dothan, Martha. Flemister@aaacooper.com

    Reply

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