The rain came hard in the middle of the night, but when I awoke this early morning it had stopped. As I sat eating fruit for breakfast I thought I heard a cat meowing out the back door of the kitchen, so I got up to go have a look, but saw none. I miss the cats I used to have, but do not like living with them in the house, and too many have not fared well living outdoors. My ears really perked when I thought I heard one.
A garbage truck pulls up on the road below our house and forks our cans into the truck with its hydraulic lift. Another week of banana peels, avocado pits, and almond milk cartons goes off to the land fill and the recycling center. All day, up and down the streets of the village, the homes are emptied of their debris, and the dwellers rush off to the big box food stores to replenish the shelves and refrigerators, pantries and cupboards. Eat and dispose, these sing-song routines of life that seem so ordinary and uneventful, yet so important that without them we would either die of starvation or prematurely bury ourselves in trash. The tiny details of living I find so easy to overlook and yet they are what comprises the largest chunk of my life. I find some enriching experience, an intangible familiarity that gives me a deep sense of well-being, when I look for details and write about them.
Listening to a radio tune this morning titled “Ballad of a Teenage Queen” about a small-town girl who loved the boy next door that worked in a candy store. She left the boy and left the town to go to Hollywood to become a star, but when she amassed the wealth–home, car, swimming pool–she realized how much she missed the small town and the boy in the candy store, so she sold it all and returned to her roots and first love.
The tune made me think of my upbringing in a small farm town in eastern Washington in the 1950s, the unpretentiousness and simplicity that allowed people to draw a deep breath of gratitude for life without feeling the need for big homes and fancy cars.
I thought once that I would like to return in my later years to live in that town, but when I last visited it I didn’t feel the same. I had been away too long and my memories had only been of the highlights of my young life, the innocent times when everything appeared to be miraculous. I knew I could not recapture that old life. When I returned for a visit, much of the town was boarded up. The stores that thrived had some quaint, small-town character about them, which made them interestingly different than the bustle that is California. Visiting my home town was just a curious peek into my own past, where I could see myself as a child for a day or two. The inviting sentimentality of the teenage queen returning to her home town makes me wonder if her experience would match mine.
I have a built-in trait to make my life more complex by trying to do more, acquire more, learn more. When I indiscriminately follow the rules of those about me, my life balloons outward in all directions until I am overly stretched. I then feel a need to let the air out, undo the puffed up style of living that I have created for myself, return to the candy store. One of my fondest memories of growing up in a small town was walking up the street to the small grocery store in the hills on the edge of town, with a few coins in my pocket, to purchase penny candy from the man behind the candy counter. I still want to walk that street.