Monday, November 18, 2013

Our lives and "Our Town"

   This weeks' blog is simply my thoughts after attending a high school play last weekend.

       I had the opportunity to attend my local high school's performance of the play, "Our Town" this last weekend.  I went, truthfully, because my youngest son Nolan and his cousin Samantha were performing in it, but I suspect I would have enjoyed myself even if I wouldn't have had a vested interest in the cast.  The story, if you
don't know it, revolves around a small fictional New Hampshire town in the early 1900's. It's done in 3 acts, the first featuring a birth, the second a marriage and the third a funeral.   I found it quite thought provoking with a Thoreau-esque kind of quality and during the second evenings performance, I started to realize that I had many similarities to the story line.

     If there is a main character in this play, one could argue that it is George Gibbs, the local baseball player turned farmer that marries his high school sweetheart and chooses to forgo college in order to stay in his small town and by her side.  He explains it simply by saying "I think that once you've found a person that you're very fond of... I mean a person who's fond of you too, and likes you enough to be interested in your character... Well, I think that's just as important as college is and even

The beaches where I could have been in my 20's
more so, that's what I think."   It's a profound statement saying that there is no more important decision in life than choosing your mate, and it's one that I concur with.   In 1983 I was just graduating high school in a small upstate NY town and I found myself making a similar decision for the same reason.  Anyone that knows me now, would not have recognized me back then, I had no drive or ambition, I slept late and contributed little and I was wrapped up pretty tightly in myself (well, OK, that one is still true).  About to graduate high school, I hadn't taken an SAT and was pretty ignorant of the whole college application process, so I decided to take the test for entering the Army.  I scored extremely well on it and got called back to discuss possible duty stations.   They said I was a guaranteed candidate for Officers Training School and that they wanted to send me to Monterey California to live in a pseudo Russian or Chinese community in a total immersion language school.  They had recognized my aptitude for language and at that time I had taken 3 years of French and 2 years of Latin.  I was a budding linguist but truthfully a novice lothario, that is until I met my wife.  We started working together and very soon the idea of traveling 3,000 miles across the country didn't seem so appealing, and I thought I should probably stick around and sort out this relationship and where it might be headed.  It was a decision that I never regretted.  I also got an opportunity to take a peek at what my future might have held one evening, years later when I took one of my broker reps to dinner.  Her husband was able to join us, and over cocktails, he told me that he had attended that exact language school and in the same year I would have attended.  He served his time and when he got out, he started teaching language in a small school in Jamestown NY.  By comparison, I had found a job that paid better, suited my personality and I had not left my girl behind to discover that there were other men, better than me, out there.  She may still hold the delusion that there are not, these 30 or so years later, because I've always been around to reinforce the idea.  Point is, I stayed and married, just like George Gibbs.

     The second similarity of our life and "Our Town" is the quaintness of our communities.  Grover's Corners has around 2,600 people in it.  I grew up in Canandaigua NY that had just under 10,000 people, and then moved to Hall (formerly called Hall's Corners) that has 300 or so people in the hamlet, but coincidentally about 2,700 in

the town of Seneca, in which it belongs, according to the 2010 census.   I know a little about a town that size.  Our post office and diner serve as the poplular meeting places for gossip and news to be exchanged, and I'm sure the talk there mirrors the talk in ""Our Town".  Births, deaths and marraiges are the hot topics but intermixed with current illnesses and ailments, accidents, and the local hot political topics.  Everyone knows your name and your business.  I like to tell the story of going to rent my PO Box when I first moved to Hall, only to be told by the Postmaster at the time, where I lived, how many kids I had, and how I made a living.  She had even set up an appointment for me to talk to the folks that owned the local diner.  That's life in a small town.  Leave your Christmas decorations up a few too many weeks and you are sure to be the topic of conversation at one of these gatherings.  Some folks can't take that kind of closenesss, but it works in the positive as well.  Get sick and your porch soon fills with crockpots and casseroles.  Lose a job and everyone has their ears open looking for a new one for you.  Pass away and a card quickly and silently appears on the counter of the Post Office with a collection box nearby.  It was a shock how things worked when I moved here, but just like the decision I made to marry my wife, I wouldn't take this one back either. 

     The last similarity I'll mention is one that I have in common with the dead people in Grover's Corners.  They are fast losing all fondness for material things and so am I.  When Emily arrives, she talks like a newly dead person might, about her new Ford and cement pond, but slowly comes to realize that they mean nothing to her

now.  She's stricken with remorse about not taking more time to appreciate the simpler things that God had given her, and although I'm not dead, I've begun this journey too.  I have trouble making Christmas lists, as I can't think of any things that I want.  I end up putting socks and underwear nd wallets and stuff on there, that I'll know I'll need to buy eventually, but the buring desire to buy new and shiny things is gone.  We'll need to replace a car soon and I'm struggling with even the thought of shelling out $30,000 for one when I should be able to buy a nice used one for a third of that price.  On the trip out this week I went cover to cover in the Skymall magazine on the plane and didn't find one thing that I thought my life would be enhnaced by owning. I'm not sure if this is growth or me just being cheap and it may be too soon in the process to tell, but I'm going to count it as a similarity between me and the movie anyway.

     I could throw in a few more, but it's late and I'm tired and the page looks pretty full already, so I won't.  I enjoyed the play "Our Town" with it's deeper meanings and simpler staging, but I think I like living "Our Town" just a little bit  better. 

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