Smalltown, USA


If you are the type who celebrates Thanksgiving, I hope yours was lovely, lovely, lovely. A friend wrote to me that she hoped mine was “restful and meaningful” – and that is what I hope for you.

I spent the holiday weekend at my in-laws’. This is the first year I can use that term, and it still feels weird on the tongue. I am still settling into the fact that the relationship is now with them directly, as my in-laws, rather than indirectly, as Raven’s family. The relationship, of course, doesn’t change – they have been kind and generous to me from the first time we met – but there is an argument for words shaping feelings, and I do feel closer to them.

The holiday itself was fairly intense – we went to his step-brother’s house and there were insanely drunk family members and screaming children (oh, the screaming) and the moments of quiet appreciation were few and far between. Eventually, Raven and his sisters and mother and I retreated into a boardgame in the corner, and let the noise go on around us.

Still, I was thankful for the noise and the humor and the demonstration of family togetherness, even if my personal choices would have been slightly different. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter much what one’s personal choices are, sometimes one just goes with the flow.

My in-laws (there, the word again!) live in one of the smallest towns I’ve ever been in. I grew up in the country outside a small village with a population of 1000 people, but they live in a town that is made up of exactly three streets – two going north/south, the other going east/west. In the past year or so, a highway bypass was completed so traffic now avoids the town, and it has fallen even farther into disrepair. The main street is lined with businesses that have been closed for years – probably since the highway bypass was announced 5 or 10 years ago. Every time we visit, we go and take pictures of the buildings, unchanged, unchanging, silent.


Down the road from this town center, a woman is known to have taken up residence in one of the empty houses. She is a squatter, a word that comes from cities or another time. She lives in the house with no electricity and builds a fire in the front yard to cook her food, and time goes by and no one does anything about it.

All of us who live in the city agree that time moves more slowly up there. We can sit on the couch for endless hours, working on our quiet projects, but at the end of those endless hours, it may be only 45 minutes later. It’s hard to get attuned back to quiet, to cold, to staying indoors, to staying in one place. We all started in places like this, but our internal clocks have sped up to the rhythms of city living, of walking fast, of waiting for buses and then hurrying to get somewhere else. We don’t usually just sit. We don’t usually wait for nothing.

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