Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Small town, enormous town

I remember it like it was yesterday.  It was a grey, drizzly Saturday about 1984 or 85 in Goodman's Cafe on Main Street in Blountstown, FL.  I had a bowl of chili and a grilled cheese sandwich.  We only went to town once a month.We had to pay someone to take us to town grocery shopping when my Grandmother's social security and the teacher's retirement check came in.  We always had lunch at one of the few restaurants in town.  I always loved the Burger Shake.  The Green's then the Donaldson's ran a great place.  We lived out near Sam Adkins Park.  I remember when they built it.

We banked at Ellis Bank, later NCNB Bank, my Grandmother refused to call it anything but Ellis Bank.  Mrs. Peacock was my Grandmother's favorite teller at one point, I'm not sure if she moved to the credit union or not when that came to town.  Things got a bit hazy there for a while.  I know we used to shop at Hagler's IGA and Evelyn Donaldson was my Grandmother's favorite cashier.  Then they opened the Piggly Wiggly in the lot adjoining Corbin's hardware store.  We started shopping there because "Aunt Margie" worked in the deli.  They had amazing potato wedges.

One thing I was absolutely certain of was that I would live in Blountstown, FL.  I would teach in Blountstown when I grew up despite the fact the teachers seemed to think I wasn't very bright.  I knew I would graduate with the BHS class of 1988, I would go to FSU or Emmanuel College.  I just knew I would return to live the rest of my life near the family and friends I had in Blountstown.  I was not one of the popular kids, I didn't have a lot of family.  I had family by marriage and a few really good friends I wanted to be near always.

It's amazing what you can convince yourself of when you are too young and naive to see another way.  I didn't graduate with the class of 1988 in Blountstown, but with another class of 1988 in Chicago, IL.  I did not go to either FSU or Emmanuel.  I went to 3 different schools but finished exactly none of them because life kept getting in the way.  I never returned to Blountstown aside from 3-5 brief visits.

I did learn as I ventured away with my Mom in 1985, that strange November day that there was a huge world and I was on the edge of it.  I learned when I got to Chicago that I was far from stupid, or dimwitted, I was placed in honors classes and did fairly well in them.  I also learned that I had a very high level of social anxiety, I hid it behind a joker's mask of smiles and laughter.  My shell was beginning to crack.  I was emerging.  The person I tucked away in that shell all those years ago had continued to grow, she just looked very different  than the one I'd envisioned and the one I'd been forced to pretend to be.  In truth the cracks started appearing before I left Blountstown.  I was beginning to grow up and actually voice my opinion, no matter how ignorant it was perceived to be, how ill advised, unpopular, humorless or humorous.

As the years trod on, I went off to college, realized I hated theater and didn't want to do it anymore.  I came back to Chicago, was reconnected with a boy I knew from Blounstown.  A boy my Grandmother probably didn't like, but it was the closest thing to her blessing I could get.  I'd fallen for him hard in 5th grade and he never left my heart and mind.  We reconnected, fell in love, I moved to Pensacola,shacked up and married, went back to school but didn't know if I wanted to teach.  I started work in an elementary school as assistant director in after school care (was SURE I didn't want to teach) then had a baby. I went back to school yet again.  This time I discovered I was actually quite intelligent.  I had more fun tutoring various electronics courses, Physics, Calculus and honors English while working as a lab FA and lead FA in my department.

You guessed it...quit school again because it was my son's turn to go to Kindergarten.  I couldn't be an hour away when he got sick and needed me.  I threw myself into volunteer work in his school, then won the PTA presidency.  The school was barely integrated.  It was largely a hispanic community.  The PTA was run by two white women when I decided it was time for a change. I hadn't been as sneaky as I had the capacity to be yet, nor as naughtily good.  The constitution hadn't been touched in 4 years.  I rewrote the constitution and happily admit I forced my agenda for an integrated PTA.  I wrote into the constitution that there would be a President, and 2 vice president's one of whom was to be bilingual the other only Spanish speaking.  I incorporated 2 Hispanic teachers, meetings were conducted in English and Spanish at the same time.  I met with the parents of Hispanic children who were considering involvement in the PTA based on a male Hispanic teacher approaching the father's.  That was the best winter festival ever.  We had a full line kitchen making fresh Mexican food, fathers and mothers were both involved.

The years have moved on and so have I.  I am a housewife and a mother.  I am often exasperated or exasperating.  I am over worked and under appreciated or over appreciated and under worked.  I am not very good at Candy Crush.  I am a pretty lazy housekeeper, I wish I liked to clean, but sadly I like to connect with friends and family.  The mess and the souvenirs from years of travel and our life as a family will be here.  Life however, is short.  

In my childish insular world, I never imagined what my life would be like. Certainly not where life would take me.  I had planned on lesson plans, those same school walls I walked so many years before with the echos of classmates laughter falling like stones to the floor as new notes replaced them.  Homecoming parades and a never ending round of "Eye of the Tiger".  I had planned on finally not letting fear hold me back and becoming more out going.  I had planned on falling in love with and marrying a boy in that same small town.  I did do that.

As my perfect dream of sitting in Goodman's diner every Saturday afternoon in my adult life (until "the one" came along) ended in a nightmare one day.  I awoke new and reborn, being reborn daily.

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