Come sit on the porch awhile. Enjoy a glass of sweet iced tea as you peruse my thoughts, memories, dreams and images of family and friends - things trivial and not so trivial - past, present and future. I write and post for the simple pleasure of doing so. If you reap some small amount of pleasure from what you find here please come back again soon.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sometimes I feel like a Mayberry player

Remember the Andy Griffith Show episode where a stranger comes to town and seems to know too much about the town folk? He goes around Mayberry with an ear-to-ear grin speaking to everyone by first name and asking intimate questions about their families and such. And the whole town gets spooked and in an uproar. The town is all abuzz: Is he a spy, is he a crook, what in the world is he up to?
And when Sheriff Andy looks into it and finally questions the stranger, he finds out the man doesn't have a family and has never lived in a community such as Mayberry. He is indeed a total stranger and belonging to a community such as Mayberry is something he has only admired from afar. But he wants so much to also belong that he devises a scheme to make himself fit in and consequently convinces even himself that he can truly belong simply by acting like he does.
Of course, in the end, he realizes you can't just fit in because you want to and simply wishing, no matter how hard you wish, does not make it so. And the town people realize how special their community is and how lucky they are to have grown up where everyone knows everyone by first name.
Crossville is like Mayberry in many ways, even now after many, many "strangers" have moved to town trying to "fit in". Only yesterday, during a conversation with a gentleman who is a lifelong resident of Cumberland County, I was reminded of this for the umpteenth time.
We were chatting about changes and modernization and such things, when he asked "Do you remember the Lewis sisters who lived on the hill out on Lantana Road just before you get to Pigeon Ridge Road?" And once again I had to admit, "No, I'm not really from here. I didn't grow up here and there's a lot of people I don't know or remember."
"That's alright" he responded, sounding a whole lot like Andy Griffith, "they probably don't live there anymore anyway." But he thought out loud how sad it was that the new road has cut right through the middle of their nice long driveway.
And I could see he was going back in his mind to a simpler time when roads were dirt and dusty and everybody knew everybody in Crossville, Tennessee. Times when it was usual to find folks you knew sitting on their front porches on Sunday afternoons sipping sweet iced tea and chatting about the week's events. And if you dropped by you wouldn't feel uncomfortable at all. You would just pull up a chair, have a seat and fit right in because you truly belonged to a community bound together by likes and dislikes, marriages and births, events and non-events and years of pulling together to make life work.
Now to be clear, I did grow up in a small town (just down the mountain from here) and it was not so different from Crossville. We had our Mayberry like characters and many of us knew each other by first name but still, it was different somehow. Perhaps it's because my family moved around a lot and my ancestry lies in western North Carolina and southeastern Tennessee that I did not ever feel a true belonging to my nearby hometown community. When I moved to Crossville it was for a new job and a new start. It is a wonderful place to live – as many others are also discovering – and I now consider it my home. But traces of the old community, where everybody knew everybody, still exist and I often find myself wishing to go back in time to feel what it's like to truly belong.
My husband has lived right here on this very land where we live now for all of his 60 years on this earth. He belongs here. I envy that and sometimes pretend that I do too.
But life has a way of reminding us who we really are and sometimes the town folk get uneasy about the strangers in town. Things happen that remind us that blood is thicker than water. And although they welcome us here and will happily share a glass of iced tea with us we are not, nor ever will we be, a party to the most intimate parts of their heritage. Becoming a member of their community is a privilege to be earned rather than a right to be bought.
But still...if I close my eyes...I can imagine it...swinging in the porch swing...sunny Sunday afternoon...birds singing....uuummm....peace at last, peace at last.