Friday, August 14, 2009

Small Town Life (take 2)

I was attempting to write this post the other day, during the middle of one of those raging summer storms we had several times daily, for several days in a row, and the power cut out, but blogger somehow managed to publish the first word in my title. I thought it was kind of funny. Small. Hmmm. What does it mean? Am I feeling small today? Is the world a small place? Maybe I should just post a random word every now and then to contemplate!
At any rate, I have been feeling very thankful lately that I live in the small town that I do. It could be better, granted. There are lots and lots of things that are bad about living in a small town, any, or this one in particular, and it wouldn't take long to list them. Just ask my kids. They will give you a litany of ills regarding life in this town. It would closely resemble the same list I had 30 years ago when I was growing up in a similar small town 11 miles north of here.
This isn't necessarily where I want to live, if given my choice of any location in the world, but given the realities of life, complete free choice is not really an option right now. Nor has it been for the past 22 years, as the constraints of my husband's job "force" us to live in this particular county. And much of the time, it IS easier to see the "bad" of living here. The grass is always greener in Alaska, for example, and the snow is definitely whiter! And they have dogsledding in Maine, and blueberries, and whales. Western New York? Here? Not so much my favorite place on earth. But when I open myself to what IS good about here, about this town, I am often surprised, or at least reminded, that this can be a good place to live, as long as I have to be here.
Last week a "neighbor" who lives on the corner of our street, two or three houses down, sent over a huge, beautiful woven grapevine basket full of vegetables from her garden. The funny thing is, I have never actually talked to this woman, or "met" her, officially. But my kids are friends with her kids (actually, the small world aspect? My son used to date her daughter back three years ago when they lived in the town I grew up in, 11 miles away, and now they've moved here, to our corner of the world, and street.) He eats there more than here; she always makes sure to feed him. When we went on vacation, they kept my Bramble puppy, and put up with her, so that I didn't have to take her to the kennel with the big dogs. What a relief that was to me, to know she was being loved here, instead of left on her own much of the day on a concrete slab in a kennel. The vegetables were beautiful - celery, which I can't grow to save my life, and some zuchini and yellow squash, and some cucumbers. And the presentation was pretty too, all lined up in that basket. It just warmed my heart that this person who I only "know" to wave to when I pass by, sent that over for us. She keeps a beautiful yard, full of flowers, and her kids are nice, and she is such a nice person. If I didn't live here, now, I would not have had that basket of friendship to reciprocate, which I did - with yellow beans from MY garden, and a loaf of fresh zuchini bread!
The other thing that happened to occur on the same day? I left the fence gate to our backyard unlatched while I was out giving water to the chickens. It swung open behind me, in my carelessness. Anvik, my husky mix, took the opportunity she clearly thought I was offering her, to trot herself out the gate, down the driveway, and disappear (trot? No, I think not. Wrong verb choice. Bolt? Run? Fast as lightening? Yes, better description by far...) OK, so that's not what made me happy to live here. Actually, that really makes me sick to my stomach when she does that - escapes. Husky's live to run, plain and simple. And when they run, they seldom slow down enough to care about cars, roads, silly things like that. They also can't be "caught" or "enticed" to come home, until they are done running. I've tried. Over and over, for years, every time Annie or Moose, her brother, escaped, I would drive all over town, looking for them, trying to catch them, trying to lure them home with hotdogs, sausages, sweet talk, etc. I know I looked ridiculous. I'm sure I often looked like some kind of sicko stalker person, leaning out my car window in the dead of winter, holding a hot dog, trying to verbally cajole a dog that was lurking behind houses or bushes, unseen to any other passerby. But to not try to get them home seemed wrong - they were my responsibility, and regardless of their irritating personal houdini acts of escape, to protect them and keep them safe, I DID try. Eventually, I gave up. There is simply NOTHING I can do to get Annie home until she decides to come home. I'm just not fast enough. And Moose paid the price for that a year and a half ago - he was hit and killed down on the main road, two blocks away. The guilt of that will never leave me. And I miss him. Terribly. Still, and always. ANYWAY, now any time Annie does get out (and thankfully, it is MUCH less often, reduced down to maybe once or twice a year) she no longer runs as far, or as long, and seems to come home much more quickly without her partner in crime. But still, I worry. I am sick to my stomach the instant I know she is gone. And I don't stop worrying until she is back at the front door. And here's the good part: Mason knows this. Mason is one of my students at school, who happens to live on the street behind me, his house kittycorner to mine. I have had Mason for five years, in various classes. We have a relationship that is rare between teacher and student, one I've only ever had one other time in my 22 years of teaching, but those two relationships have made all 22 years completely worth it. Musings for another time. Mason and his cousin were walking past my house when Anvik tore down the front hill and out of the yard. In a split second, they made a decision I was totally unaware of: they chased her. All the way up to school, and around the block, and back to my house. In all, she was only gone about 15 minutes this time, and they chased her right back to the front door, where I just HAPPENED to be passing by and saw them, now in my front yard. I opened up the door to see what was going on, and Annie zipped in, and Mason, out of breath, filled me in. I owe them both cookies, promised for the first day of school. Mason, skinnybones that he is, is a typical teenage boy - he lives to eat!
And THOSE are the reasons I am glad I live here, today, this summer. Good neighbors, on the corner, and behind my fence. Good neighbors abound everywhere. I'm sure I'd have some in Maine, or Alaska, or Montana, or wherever I was lucky enough to live by choice, but it's good to know that if I HAVE to live here for now, I can still be grateful for the people with whom I share this little space.

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