With apologies to my city-dweller friends–on Chicago’s northwest side, in Brooklyn, Los Angeles, San Francisco’s Mission District and Seattle’s U District–not to mention you suburbanites, I must write an ode to small-town life.
Often I walk to the bank, chat up the tellers while they process my merchant bag of tricks. Onward to the post office where we know names, notice haircuts, chuckle. A quick trip to the grocery store never takes five minutes. Eating out inevitably means seeing friends across the room. Connections cross over and under the stream of daily life. Each foray out the front door involves another point of contact.
For everyone in this town of 10,000 I know by name, there are five I know by sight. Nodding acquaintances, I believe they are called.
This morning, with our car in the shop, my husband dropped me off at Joe & Sugars at 7:00 a.m.. Outside it was cold, dark, wet and vacant. The downtown café was full of men gathering for breakfast. A lamp in the window glowed as groups of guys huddled around tables, pulling up chairs, crowding in two more. No laptops, no iPods, no TVs suspended from the ceiling, just a steady stream of masculine murmurs and laughs. The male camaraderie was more pleasant to me than the smell of fresh-baked scones and the blast of warmth when the ovens opened.
There is something profound about a daily/weekly breakfast with friends. The architecture of friendship begins with sharing meals, sharing stories and opinions, sharing time. As I sipped my tea and wrote in my commonplace book, I tried to suppress a silly grin. I’m living in a Jan Karon novel!