It started when he attended something like 24 formal dances (homecomings and proms) as a teenager. At one point, I had a veritable lending library of ties to match any color of dress that may have been in vogue between 2013 and 2018.
If I recall correctly, tangerine was a standout one year. He dated young ladies from outside our school district which effectively doubled his numbers. For a quiet guy, he definitely turned into a regular on the formal circuit.
It should come as no surprise, then, that now his sweet fiance once asked, wide-eyed, if it was possible for anyone from his hometown to be married without including him in the wedding party.
The short answer: no. I’ve lost count of his wedding attendance. I’m just waiting for his wedding. Yes, that is a hint.
It’s not so much about popularity as it is a product of growing up in a small town. I use the term “town” loosely. It’s a township and villages. Boywonder is still close friends with people he has known since he was a toddler. New friends are those he made when he was a teen — over a decade ago. When you graduate with less than 100 people, it may be inevitable to get attached.
GirlWonder is close to a dear friend whom SHE has known for most of her life. From preschool to peewee cheer, to prom photos to weddings. Now her friend has a brand new baby. How did these little girls move from doll days to become these married women passing an infant back and forth?
They start out in sleeping bags on someone’s parents’ floor. Then years spent traipsing in and out of friend’s homes so often they were given regular chores. Then to those first apartments that were often little more than flophouses. Now they have fiances or spouses, careers, paperwork and guestrooms. They used to drink beer in fields. Now they have charcuterie boards and discuss home buying and interest rates.
Both of our now grown children speak often on the subject of what growing up in a tight-knit community where “everyone knows your name” (or better yet, your mama’s) taught them. Namely, accountability.
You might live in the middle of 200 acres. but it doesn’t matter. Someone is always watching. Doing something stupid, while tempting, usually is not worth the inevitable consequence. It was never “if” but rather “when” you were caught. There was no hiding it. If you didn’t know what you did last night, someone will tell you. If you don’t want the whole town talking about you, don’t give them something to talk about.
It is common to hear that you can’t be accepted or fit into a tight-knit community. I did not find that to be true at all. We only moved here 27 years ago. In small-town life, that may as well be the day before yesterday. We always felt accepted and included. We have amazing friends. We have served on local boards.
What you put into the community is what you get out of it. People show up for each other. Spaghetti dinners in the school gymnasium to raise money for medical bills? We are there. Welding a trailer for a neighbor in trade for fresh eggs or a handshake? Sounds good.
Growing up in a culture of care makes for generous concern. This probably explains why GirlWonder spent a solid week worrying about the pet bunnies her new neighbors had unwittingly released.
Our children learned early and often that being part of a family and community requires teamwork. As they grew older, they both took jobs in the service sector, one at a busy tourist venue nearby and the other the local hardware store. There really is nothing quite as intense as serving thousands of visitors for 12-plus-hour shifts in the searing heat of dusty summer days, or answering at least a hundred “working hard or hardly working?” queries to hone one’s work ethic.
Back home, both laugh — now — at how their father worked “we need to get cracking on that firewood” into EVERY conversation. Having a good time at Disney World? He’s going to mention that we need to cut firewood when we return home. Birthday party? Firewood. Second coming of the Lord? Perhaps He would want to help cut firewood? After all, Proverbs 21:25 says the desires of the lazy will kill them, because their hands refuse to do anything.
Sometimes these healthy birds fly far afield. Still, it warmed my heart and made me chuckle when a now grown friend of GirlWonder contemplated moving “back home” from the big city where she has lived for years.
Her comment: you can take the girl out of “bring your tractor to school day,” but you can’t take the “bring your tractor to school day out of the girl.”
If you’re really lucky, probably not.
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