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Slow going

by | May 16, 2022 | Opinion

Small town life is slower. I’m reminded of what I traded when I left Ashdown for big city life. Here’s a message I received this morning:

“We had a wren make a nest in our mailbox. She only has one leg, so we put a box in a chair on the front porch for the mailman.”

Some might find humor in this. I find love.

There’s a reason The Andy Griffith Show still draws viewers; sometimes more than local newscasts.

Most of us grew up in small town America. And Mayberry reminds us of home.

No one keeps a calendar in small towns. Oh, they may or may not know the date, but the day of the week is enough.

Where I live now, the first thing I do after getting coffee at 3 or 4 a.m. is look at the calendar on my phone to see where I have to be that day. I note when I have to be there, and how long I have to stay.

Notice I wrote ‘how long I have to stay,’ and not, ‘how long I get to stay.’

My calendar usually includes two to seven events. When I get home at night, I have more things to do than when I left.

In small town America, Monday might mean volunteering at the church or county museum. Wednesday night is church. Friday is meeting at the Dairy Queen. Sunday is church and going to lunch with relatives and family.

Beyond that, folks in a small town keep their calendar open. In case someone needs them or they figure out what needs to be done.

When I go back to Ashdown, for the first few hours I find myself constantly checking my watch or calendar.

There’s nothing on my calendar other than, “Ashdown – All Day.” Yet, I can’t stop looking to see where I have to be next.

I usually ask if there’s some place anyone needs to be.

“Nope,” is the answer. And we continue talking, making another pot of coffee, or discussing what’s going on in town.

Mostly, the women in the family talk about who needs help, a hand, or prayer. 

There are a lot of Aunt Beas in small towns.

When I go home, there is time to go for a drive. Time to go and see the old homestead and stand at the fence, and gaze through the overgrown sea of green that now resides where your mother grew up.

Time for your family to point at different areas of the homestead and tell you, “That’s where the house was. The well was here. The pond over there. And here’s where the barn sat.”

Time to go to Herb’s for a burger and ice cream. Just like folks have done since Ike was president.

Time to drive over to the hospital and visit the sick.

Time to visit the nursing home and visit the sad.

Time to go to the cemetery and talk to those you miss.

Time. There’s just a lot of time.

During my visit, my phone rings and the text messages flow in. I respond, “Out of town today. Back home in Ashdown. Talk soon.”

The messages begin to wane. They never stop, but they slow down.

Just like the folks back home.

When I’m back in my daily routine, I budget my time. I have to. I make appointments on my calendar so that others don’t commandeer my time.

“Sorry, I can’t do 11 on Thursday,” I’ll say. “How’s 9 or 11 on Friday? I have an hour each time.”

No one in a small town lives that way. Prioritizing is easy. If someone needs you, you stop what you’re doing and go help him or her. If you’re already with someone else, you both go.

Whether I’m home or back in my hometown, there are the same number of hours in the day, but it sure doesn’t seem like it.

In my hometown, there’s time for others, for yourself, and time for a wren nesting in your mailbox.

Each time I go home, I have to slow down. A lot.

And I miss that.

By John Moore

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