Dear Pandora, Ohio,
Well I was born in a small town [not really]
And I live in a small town [I did]
Probably die in a small town [wouldn’t mind it, but hopefully not anytime soon]
– “Small Town” by John Cougar Mellencamp
I think if someone is from a town like you or has lived in one, then they know.
And I firmly believe that if they’ve never lived in a small town, there will always be a part of them that yearns for it as they watch movies like Hoosiers, The Truman Show, or Field of Dreams. Or TV shows like last summer’s Netflix hit Stranger Things.
The kindness, the simplicity, the lost idyllic America. (Okay, well maybe Stranger Things wasn’t idyllic….)
But even more than that, there’s a reason why Cheers’ theme song “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” strikes a chord.
(Millennials, just google Hoosiers, Truman Show, Field of Dreams, or Cheers. Or better yet, pull them up on Netflix or Amazon and you’ll understand this post a whole lot better.)
On some level, we all want to be surrounded by people and places that know us, accept us, and inspire us.
My person, my solace, and my dreams, were all shaped by a small town in Ohio.
We didn’t lock our doors. At 10, I regularly rode my bike alone out into your countryside, unchallenged by adults or convention.
We played Pac Man in your local market with our bikes leaning outside and a few quarters in our pocket. We ate chewy sweet tarts as we pedaled south toward the sewer pipe under Washington Street that just fit the height of your adventurous children.
Ditching our bikes on the roadside, childhood wars were won and lost walking on your rocks and under your single stoplight road. Dreams were whispered to a tunnel’s echo as the sun played shadow puppets on a stream that in reflection, might have been sewage runoff.
But we didn’t care.
This was freedom.
This was 1984.
I left you with little more than the sorrow of a fifth grader whose childhood felt stolen in a move to the suburbs. But you left me with something more.
Thank you for the taste of freedom.
I would never again be confined by danger lurking around the corner, by the limits of fences, fears, or expectations. I’ve passed that on to my free range kids. Be home by dark, my child. And even then, a little flashlight tag might be in order.
Thank you for peace.
The sound of a tractor and the smell of fresh cut hay followed me from you to my dad’s farm in Indiana to my house in Bethesda where I now live surrounded by farmers. When caught behind a tractor on the road, I take it as God’s sign to slow down.
Thank you for friendship.
Your people have woven in and out of my entire life. From my childhood, to my wedding, to my son’s clinical trial, to my Facebook. We’ve watched each other grow up, and now we’ll watch each other grow old.
Thank you for the memories.
The Lunch Box. Harlan’s barbecue. Spring Lake. Fruit and vegetable stands on empty country roads that somehow still sell out. St. John Mennonite Church where I first saw Pilgrim’s Progress live. High school football where the town turned out.I might be romanticizing, but what is nostalgia if not our memories wrapped in a blanket of warm hugs?
If I’d never known you, I’d never have known the peace of empty one lane roads as far as the eye could see, mom and pop restaurants, pond swimming, unlocked doors, and dinner picked from the field a few minutes prior.
I’d have never known that the grain elevator can be the center of town. That America is no more New York City than it is all the Pandoras littered across its landscape.
In many ways, I’ve never left you. And for that, I’m grateful.
Last modified: April 12, 2017