Where I come from everyone knows something. While they hold true to what they do know, most can’t tell you how they know it. They know the important things, like the days of the week that take priority over others. They know the boundaries of the county line and which counties sit next door. They know which local news station is preferred. There’s this innate ability to hunt – any animal, in season or not. There are specific locations, those like ‘in town’ and ‘out-of-town.’ But when someone says they’re going to town, it’s because they have to travel every bit of thirty miles to get to the nearest Wal-Mart or Kroger. A fast food meal means only one of two places, McDonald’s or Wendy’s, both of which reside in the same municipality which is also the county seat. The nearest lakes are man-made and over populated in the summer months.
I grew up in a town that looks like every other town around it. I knew who lived in each and every house when I was younger. There is the guarantee that regardless of where I am, someone knows myself or my family. While the rest of the world continues to grow and thrive, where I come from stays stagnant. The landscapes change but mostly just from the seasons. Where coal has once been stripped, the surface has been reclaimed, and I don’t believe there is one inch of this place left with untouched ground. We don’t have straight roadways, not even the thoroughfares that run through every town. Traffic consists of a variety of modes for transportation, including (but not limited to) tractors and horse and buggy. Sunday drivers exist on any given day of the week at any given time of the day.
Crowds here aren’t common unless it’s at a high school football game, in which attendance is still never close to an impressive number. No matter what road anyone travels there’s a gravel road to get you to your destination sooner. A nice quiet day consists of fishing, farming, or hunting moral mushrooms, but the latter is only possible in the spring and only for just a few short weeks. Having money is the equivalent to the biggest new model of truck on the market, diesel engine of course. The tractor pulls at the county fair are the most popular live venue. And on the weekends the local bars are where everyone gets together.
Where I come from everyone knows everybody, or at least something about somebody anyway. There are more social clicks than there are types of alcohol served to the public. Yet, alcohol is the only common factor for anyone that’s anybody. Each town has one church, though several have more, and there’s no real rhyme or reason to denominations – just like that volunteer tomato plant that is growing this year where the cabbage has been planted. Here, there are more outspoken opinions than there are stars in the sky. Rumors are carried faster than the postal service delivers mail. And it’s also here where the only known traffic jams are due to road construction or trains on the railroad track.
Everyone here thinks they know something and I have just accepted the fact that most of them can’t really speak with certainty on any one subject outside of college football stats. This isn’t said in negative connotation, instead it’s said with the intent of showing the blanket of naivety this place is nestled in, where it gets coddled and cradled like a newborn baby. It’s carried with pride and flaunted often.
Most people speak loudly enough for the neighbors to hear them. But it’s when they are hushed and whispering while surveying those around them when it’s the best gossip, guaranteed. Change isn’t really welcomed here as most people are happy existing with every tomorrow exactly as they did the day before. Vacations are planned because traveling isn’t a luxury for everyone. But when vacations get scheduled they are spoken about for the entire six months prior to and every month for six months after coming back home again.
It’s quiet here and that’s about the only perk. Most of us graduate high school and stay. Some of us graduate high school excited to leave, proclaiming we’ll never return. But somehow, the gravity here sucks us back into this place we call home. ‘Home is where the heart is’ after all. Which often makes me wonder what in the hell that even means anyway…if it’s the people in our lives that matter why do we tell ourselves that a town has anything to do with it?
I wonder as I watch as some of those friendships that stay with us become stronger, while so many still meander in and out of those once tightly made circles – the ones where we used to belong over there, but now we only stick to this one over here. Many will make the usual courtesies of acknowledging each other after this migration is made. Some even put full effort towards pretending to be happy now seeing that face they walked away from, as they non-chalantly ask how life is – meanwhile the expression they hold clearly tells everyone else that the conversation is painful and was never intended to last as long as it does. Half of the bystanders laugh at the occurrence while the other half try not to even notice that it’s happening. Meanwhile both parties involved just want to end the niceties to go back to tell their respective group their own version of what just happened. And this is how life is here, where I come from.
There are two reasons why people come together where I come from: weddings and funerals. Usually these happen with sincerity. Differences are cast aside on such occasions as these people come together. Both events are cause for tears during the beginning and they tend to end in laughter. During either one of these, looking around the room, you’d never know the history of anyone here from an outside view. You’d never know that all of these people have a strict history of being against each other or loving each other. Those parts stay hidden here, they are only reserved for the natives.
While families flock for either occasion, these moments allow for what has fallen in between the cracks of life to still be okay not being important enough to discuss. I mean, our lives all go on in their own directions. What Susie said of Sally in 1992 is still referred to often in discussion, but during either one of the two of these times, Susie and Sally are here, together, carrying on as if 1992 was just a year that never happened.
It’s strange, isn’t it? We have no problem existing as we choose to yet we hate when we are discussed. We hold on to a few people while we forget the rest of these faces too easily; we forget the rest of what really matters too often. Every day we wake up from sleeping so that we can prepare for another day – just to get on with it, just to get it over with. This is how life is where I come from.
It’s all the important and in between parts that no one really cares about. No one wants to know what makes you hurt this time. No one wants to know why you’re laughing when you’re happy. When you fail it’s just as well-known as when you succeed but every step we take, up or down, well, those just don’t matter…it’s that last one that lands us at the top or finds us down there on the ground where we fell – those are the ones that get noticed. It seems too easily forgotten by those around us that we are more than just the good or the bad. No one cares about all of our small and in-between moments, those moments that make us who we really are.
We focus on all of the wrong things while we go about living our lives here. It’s not until we suffer loss that we question where we’ve been and where it is we want to go. It takes losing to make us question if anything could have been different to avoid the here and the now. In times of celebration excitement doesn’t leave any room for the unsaid to be spoken. Most people here allow any of the blanks about anything to be filled by whatever fits. It doesn’t matter what the truth is as long as it helps to carry the conversations held about them.
We are so busy just existing here that too many just don’t care to know any of the terms and conditions that apply to us, well, not the real ones anyway. The fine print gets ignored because it takes too much time to read it. The fine print doesn’t matter because the people here only want the bold titles that offer some stamp of approval that somehow gives a value to our lives. Who we are doesn’t really matter here, it only matters where we fit in. But this is how life is where I come from…it’s how it’s always been.