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I was born in a small town…

Posted by Mimi Meredith at Sunday, June 24th, 2012 8:41 am

If music came to mind, I hope it was the John Mellencamp version that will be playing through your head. I prefer it to Bruce Springsteen.

But I didn't sit down at the keyboard today to wax prolific on the music of my youth (Small town came out my last year of college.) In fact, I was going to shut down the website this week. After all, I no longer need a website, and I felt that the anonymity afforded me in Phoenix made it much safer to blog than I would experience since moving back to Hutchinson, Kansas in April.

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Hutchinson is a place where it is not at all unusual to hear a review of your life plans and a recap of how you spent your weekend from an acquaintance you haven't seen for months (or in our case, years)  while you're waiting in line at the local supermarket.

This phenomena was very intriguing if not a little unsettling to Mary Charlotte when we first arrived.

"How do they know?" she asked.

"It's just part of living in Hutchinson," I told her. And I reassured her that it was more interest than invasion. Of course, I was having that conversation for my own benefit.

I was born in a small town. Miles City, Montana, has a population that hovers right around 9,000 people. When Greg and I moved to Hutchinson in 1986, to me it seemed big--42,000 people in the city; more than 60,000 in the "trade area." Then we moved to Phoenix and shared the valley with three million friends and neighbors. Hutchinson, naturally, seemed small.

Now, it feels just right. Let me tell you why.

Pam

I met Pam yesterday. I was waiting to get my hair done at Hayden's, the local Aveda Salon and Day Spa (see...not so small sounding, are we?) and I sat down in the chair next to her. I realized that Pam was there along with Frank, a man who is mentally retarded who I knew from my years working with TECH. The woman with them was likely a TECH staff member. Frank was heading back to the pedicure area. Pam, as I learned later, was waiting for a shampoo, to have her lip waxed and to have a manicure.

As we waited together, Pam asked me about the book I was reading. I explained it was called My Paris Wife and that it was about the wife of Ernest Hemingway. She said simply, "Oh."

Two or more minutes passed before Pam said, "I like Capote."

Initially, I wasn't sure what she'd said as she was just a little hard to understand. Then, gratefully, my brain caught on to the continuation of the literature conversation.

"Truman Capote?" I said, with a bit of surprise.

"Yeah," Pam said. "Isn't it sad what happened to those Clutter children?" And then she resumed staring straight ahead. She was done visiting.

What resonated with me is not that Pam, an adult woman with mental challenges, reads Capote. What I found significant is that sharing the conversation with her was just part of another morning in a town where lives that are so very different intersect daily in ways that are so very commonplace.

In Phoenix, most of the people who occupied my salon waiting area were nearly an exact reflection of my demographic. To share my daily activities with someone like Pam, I would have needed to volunteer for a program that served adults with disabilities, like ARC of Tempe.

The right-sizedness of Hutchinson enabled me to share an ordinary moment with her, and my entire weekend has been enriched by it.

* * *

That was one of my many Hutchinson blessings yesterday. They happen every day. I will share more with you whenever I sit down next.

And I will sit down to write again because I would miss you if I didn't. Even if it's just a few of us gathered here to think on goodness, that is also, just right. And I'm grateful for this space and for each of you. More than you know.

Photo Credit: Amy Bickel, The Hutchinson News


17 comments
SocialMediaDDS
SocialMediaDDS like.author.displayName 1 Like

Today has officially been dubbed "Catch Up with Mimi Day".  Your most recent post dropped into my inbox this afternoon and I've been reading each of your posts from the last few months that, for one reason or another, I had not yet read.  If I haven't shared this sentiment with you before, let me share it now...you are a very gifted writer @MimiMeredith .  There is not a single post that has not moved me on some level....to the point that I am embarrassed that I had let as many posts slip past me as I have!  There is a gentleness that flows through your words.  There is an intense relate-ability to your shared experiences.  There is a sweetness in your self revelations that allows the reader to feel comfortable examining THEIR own foibles and feelings. 

And, if my journey ever takes me near Hutchinson, Kansas, population 42,000 ("more or less...more when you come, less when you leave"...LOVE that @RiverwoodWriter !!) I'll be able to experience it with more mindfulness. 

Thank you Mimi...

Claudia

MimiMeredith
MimiMeredith moderator

 @SocialMediaDDS  @RiverwoodWriter Oh that would be wonderful, Claudia! Or maybe I should come to Chicago!!

 

Thank you for your kind words. I am enjoying writing again and am grateful for the little community we have here!

 

Here's to week filled with little bits of unexpected goodness!

 

Hugs,

Mimi

Gwyn Nichols
Gwyn Nichols

Ditto on that hope that you'll keep blogging. After all, the whole Internet is a small town.

 

MimiMeredith
MimiMeredith moderator

 @Gwyn Nichols Oh my goodness, Gwyn. I think you're on to something. I hope you write a bit around that prompt re: the internet.

 

And we created our own sense of connection clear across that huge sprawling valley, didn't we!?

annedreshfield
annedreshfield

What a wonderful story, Mimi. I haven't lived anywhere quite that small (though my parents just moved to Spokane, Washington, which feels small compared to other places we've lived), I have had a similar experience of going to a small women's college. There's about 900 students total. I love it -- there's a camaraderie and ease of living with such a small community of like-minded women that I just can't get enough of. It's a special little oasis, that's for sure.

MimiMeredith
MimiMeredith moderator like.author.displayName 1 Like

 @annedreshfield Anne, what small women's college did you attend? I also am the product of a small two-year liberal arts college for women in Missouri! You're right about the camaraderie. And, thanks to the internet, I still find that oasis with my Cottey friends today.

annedreshfield
annedreshfield

 @MimiMeredith I'm a rising senior at Scripps College, in Claremont, CA. I wouldn't have traded this college experience for anything! 

annedreshfield
annedreshfield

 @MimiMeredith Rising senior just means I'm between my junior and senior year. I can't believe I'm going to be a senior in the fall! It all went by way too fast. 

MimiMeredith
MimiMeredith moderator like.author.displayName 1 Like

 @annedreshfield That's right! It's all coming back to me now. I'm so glad you've had a great experience from which to launch your career and friendships that will last through every life stage. What's a "rising" senior?

MimiMeredith
MimiMeredith moderator

Well when I finally get to DC, I will be there! I can hardly wait. And I love the image of the town of 40 with the muffler-eating railroad crossing!

RiverwoodWriter
RiverwoodWriter

This discussion reminds me of what my father used to say about my home town of Delaplane, Virginia. "Population 45 more or less...more when you come and less when you leave." The most memorable thing about it was the dip at the railroad track that took out many a muffler. We actually lived on a farm in the country, and I wouldn't trade it for anything. I STILL live in the country in the Shenandoah Valley, and our little towns are true gems. I wish you'd come visit! We're only 90 miles west of DC!

MimiMeredith
MimiMeredith moderator

This comment was emailed to me by my sister, @Margaret Mathers Novak. I wanted to share it here, as I love her wisdom in seeing the benefit in what others might see as the strain of small town living...

 

Well, just to keep things going: I've made up a saying about living in a town as small as mine (Chester, MT, population 900--and the next town west is Shelby, 40 miles west, population 4000). This is it:  "The worst thing about living in a town as small as Chester is also the best thing about living in a town as small as Chester: You can't avoid the people you don't like." It's true.  In ways that are totally different from metropolitan areas, small towns demand that folks from different "demographic groups" mingle constantly.  That's a good thing, really.  One learns to think big, to forgive small oversights and large religious and political differences, and to concentrate on what it means to live in community--and even harmony--with each other.   Thanks for posting again, Mimi--and for giving me something to think about at the end of a lovely, peaceful Sunday in north central Montana.

bdorman264
bdorman264

Hey stranger, you gotsta write; no matter where you live.........:). 

 

Hope all has been well; I was born in a small town too. And although Lakeland is right around 100,000 it's not huge by any stretch.

 

Good to see you. 

MimiMeredith
MimiMeredith moderator like.author.displayName 1 Like

 @bdorman264 Bill, it's so fun since my Florida experience in Jan. and Feb, to know exactly where Lakeland is and what streets/highways run through it! Don't you think that small town beginning gives you roots that sustain you when you begin to feel small in big places? It's the power to strike up a conversation with a stranger in the supermarket and to "invite some folks over" when you want to get to know your neighbors. I think those things come from the small town connectedness. Thanks for maintain the support and connection even when I am in radio silence. It means more than you know!

RiverwoodWriter
RiverwoodWriter

I hope the last paragraph means you ARE going to continue to blog. Let it be an outlet. Let it be a gathering. But it is a place where goodness grows every time we share these thoughts and reflections, and that's a very good thing. I think of you often and am so glad to hear you're feeling settled.

MimiMeredith
MimiMeredith moderator

 @RiverwoodWriter Elizabeth, you are doing such outstanding things with your blog and your new facebook page. I'm so pleased to see it all coming together for you. You're right, this is an outlet and it is a gathering...and I do so love a good gathering. I'm grateful to you and for you!M

RiverwoodWriter
RiverwoodWriter

 @MimiMeredith Thank you, Mimi. We shall see whether it's really coming together, but I do feel I'm finding my way to a clearer focus than when we first "met" each other. I'm not sure why it's so hard to get that clarity. Too many competing interests!