Life In A Small Town
I grew up in a small town in Western Maine in an era when you knew all your neighbors, helped out strangers and would smile and wave to anyone. This was a land of dairy farms and rolling meadows. A place where you always felt safe and no one locked their doors, whether it was the house or the car.
I remember being a child of ten on a warm summer day. I bicycled two miles from my house to meet up with my best friend and from there we bicycled another three miles into town. My mother had a charge account at the general store and we went in to use it. This was before credit cards, and you would pick out items that you wanted or needed at the store and the cashier would tally them up and write it down on a slip as money you owed at the end of the week or month. The store trusted that you would pay them and might even let you stretch out the payments further if you didn’t have the money when it came time to pay your debt. My friend and I went into the store that day and charged sandwiches, sodas and chips in order to have a picnic at the lake. We spent the whole day bicycling around to various places around town and then, eventually, back home. Our parents had no idea where we went that day, nor did they ever worry that something bad would happen. They knew and trusted everyone around our town.
I think back on that day and that life with such melancholy. Such simple times, such an uncomplicated life. I recently returned to my hometown and noted how drastically things have changed over the years. Like so many small towns, it has slowly morphed into a place so different from my childhood remembrance. The general store has given way to a Super Wal-Mart, charge accounts mean something completely different now and no one is lenient when you can’t pay. I look at my daughters and think to myself that there is absolutely no way that I would let them bicycle by themselves around town with no idea where they were or who might be waiting to do them harm. As I went around the town now devoid of so many things that I held dear no one waved or smiled, if anything, I was met with cold ambivalence. The town of my childhood has been replaced with the cold, hard reality of this day and age.
Oh, how I miss those times that I grew up in! Yes, it was a bit like Mayberry, but was that really so bad? I wish that, somehow, I could be transported back to that summer day of long ago so that I could fully appreciate that unpretentious life and bicycle around that friendly and familiar town I once called home.