Better than Mayberry

Small towns get a bad rap.

Remember Bruce Almighty? When Bruce visits the one town with the biggest chocolate chip cookie ever? That small town crowd had a tough time keeping their fingers out of their noses and getting out an intelligible word.

Happens all the time. Hollywood depicts small towners as country bumpkins—wearing overalls to the homecoming dance and carrying pitchforks on their daily errands.

Well, I’m here to tell you something.

Small towns rock.

I just spent a week in Danville, Ohio. Population 1000.  The high school graduation class has less than 50 kids in it. Everyone knows everyone, and the whole town comes out for a good football or basketball game.

I was in Danville because my father-in-law passed away last week. All of Brian’s family still lives in Ohio, so we came together to honor his dad’s life. Brian is one of seven siblings. Count spouses, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews and half the town is family of one kind or another.

And they came out in droves.

They brought food.

They sent flowers.

They came through the receiving line and tearfully hugged each of the siblings. “I remember when your dad used to work real estate. We had a great time together.”

“He always took care of our family when we needed him,” said another who had carried insurance with him.

“I remember when you all were just little, “another said. “What a family!”

There’s history in a small town. History of families living, laughing, loving together.

There’s accountability in a small town. It’s not just one set of parents taking care of one set of kids. Everyone looks out for one another’s children and there are grown-up eyes wherever a child turns – whether they like it or not.

There’s honor in a small town. People are proud. They take care of each other. They serve when it’s needed.

There’s character in a small town. Quirky neighbors are indulged, star athletes and hard workers are celebrated. Everyone is a part.

My parents came over from Holland and settled in New Jersey, so all of my extended family lived across an ocean. I missed knowing grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. I missed doing life together.

But this last week I watched aunts and uncles scooping up nieces and nephews. I saw babies with outstretched arms and grandmas with waiting hugs and kisses. I saw siblings who have raised kids together, nephews who shared a long history of personal jokes and friendships that started in kindergarten and continue to middle age.

So no matter how things might be depicted on TV, I think small towns are the bomb. And today I celebrate one in particular: Danville, Ohio and its 1000 residents. Kind, intelligent, generous people who look out for each other, work hard, love God and give of themselves.

Kudos to you, Danville.

I loved spending time with you.

Brian and his siblings: Deb, Brenda, Brian, Joe, Dave, Kirk, Andrea

With spouses and mom 🙂

But what will you think of me?

Sometimes I care too much what people think.

This hiccup in my personality seems to come out most when I’m on a plane. And since I’ve been traveling a lot, I notice it all the more.

For example, I’ve been reading the Twilight series. I want to branch into writing some teen fiction, so I was curious about what exactly drew teens into the shimmery vampire/handsome werewolf world.

Well, as soon as a woman sat down next to me on my flight, I wanted to explain my reading material.

“I know you’re going to glance over and see what I’m reading,” I wanted to say, “but I just want you to know in advance that I’m not a grown woman with a crush on Edward Cullen. I’m doing research.”

“Don’t raise your eyebrows at me,” I’d add,  “I’m serious!”

So in order to avoid that awkward conversation, I was reading the book on my i-pad with a napkin casually balanced over the title of the book at the top of the page.

On another plane I was studying notes for an upcoming interview on purity. I was reading through the questions—several of them talked about sex (and yes, used the word). Several more talked about purity. A big burly man was sitting next to me. I caught him reading my stuff out of the corner of his eye, but when I turned to look in his direction—he quickly looked out the window, at the ceiling, anywhere but at me. I could almost feel him squeezing his body as far from mine as possible. Like at any moment I might look at him, bunch up my eyebrows, wag my finger and ask him what he’s been up to for the last few days.

Sigh.

I faced another situation in an airport in Raleigh, NC. I was sitting at a table in a sports grill type place. Brian’s birthday is coming up, so I was in the middle of working on a card for him. I knew this would be one of the only times I’d get to work on it, so I opened up my bag and pulled out my crayons, markers and colored pencils. Yes, I was making him a card. A very big and elaborate card that counted out fifty things that I love about him.

I put three things per page and colored, shaded, filled in all my cool lettering and fancy pictures.

A very business-type gentleman sat a few tables down.

“Oh,” he said, after glancing at my crafty-giftedness a time or two, “are you a teacher?”

I turned a few shades of red as I responded. “No, ummm…. I’m actually making a card for my husband.”

Making a card?”

I colored in my number 40 and shaded the words, “You are studly!” on my card.

“Yes.” I said. Without turning to him.

The waitress showed the same curiosity. “Are you an artist?”

“Ummm, no. I’m making a card for my husband’s 50th birthday.”

I could almost hear her thoughts. Hmmm… how… special.

I must have sat at the table for a few hours with various folks going by. I felt a little weird with all my crayons and markers scattered all around, but I continued to scribble, color, and draw away.

Actually, wait a second! You know what? I guess I don’t care too much what people think. Or at least the discomfort doesn’t stop me from doing stuff. Despite my embarrassment, I still read the vampire book. I still worked on the purity questions. I still sat in the middle of a busy restaurant and colored pictures for my husband like a giggly second grader.

Why?

I think its love. I love teens and want to know what captures their hearts. I love purity and want to share its amazing coolness with the world. And I love my husband, my hunka-hunka burning love and I don’t care who knows it.

I guess that’s our ultimate cure for pushing through all things uncomfortable, right? Love. Love makes us do crazy things.

So friends, what has love made you do lately?

Some secrets are meant to be kept (Flashback Friday)

From January 21st, 2005

Sami and me about the time I wrote this story

Sami and I have a secret, sacred mother-daughter code. Anytime that we share
something with each other that we don’t want anyone else to know, we put up
our pinky fingers, lock them, do a little circular handshake and intone
“Mother-daughter sphere—promise?” This is to keep Sami from spilling out my
most embarrassing moments (which I spill out perfectly well on my own), and
it keeps Sami’s adventures from winding up in a magazine, book or blog (at least without her permission).

Sometimes, on rare occasions, I forget to use the code, thinking that some
things will just be assumed as private, personal information.

Not very smart.

So we went to Austin this last weekend. Brian, the man I’ve fallen in love
with, came along to sit under the spotlight and be interrogated by some more
family members. He did well. He played basketball with the boys, talked with
my niece and pulled out all the paperwork on his financial, medical and criminal history for my brother and his wife to peruse.

And still, I thought, he loves me.

The dating days 🙂

So back to the sphere. One evening we went bowling with the family. I took my turn, bowled the perfect strike and turned to see Sami talking to Brian. He was grinning. I was suddenly nervous.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

Sami took her turn and Brian was still smiling.

“Talk to me, Brian.”

“Sami just informed me that I need to marry you in two months.”

I gulped. “She did?”

“She just wanted me to know that you would say yes if I asked you.”

I remembered the conversation. “Mom, would you say yes if Brian asked you to
marry him?”

“Yes.”

That was it. No pinkies in circular motion. No mother-daughter secret,
sacred code. What was I thinking? I tried to redeem the moment by putting on
my most mysterious and alluring look. I tried to bat my lashes. I went for the
I-will-say-yes-but-I-want-to-maintain-the-element-of-surprise attitude that
I once had going for me. I fluttered my lashes again.

Brian peered at me closely and asked if there was something in my eye.

I shook my head and smiled in my full-on embarrassed dimpled goofiness.

And still, I thought to myself, he loves me.

Mile Marker 42

I am so not dignified. Really. It’s mildly embarrassing how giddy I get when I’m about to see my man. When I arrived home Sunday night after a busy run of travel, I had a smile on my face before I even exited the plane.

My grin broadened as I walked through the terminal and climbed on board the train. Random people smiled back.

My joy grew by increments of warm fuzzies and mild goofiness as the train came to a stop.

I nearly bounded up the escalator before remembering, Come now, Elsa, professional women don’t bound.

Finally. I scanned the crowd. Caught glimpse of that smile. Threw decorum to the wind and bounded into my man’s strong arms and melted against his chest.

Oh, how I love coming home.

That was just the beginning. We gathered the luggage, jumped in the car and headed south. With each mile marker, my sense of expectation grew.

Mile marker 163… getting close.

Mile marker 200. The magic number.

Home!

I walked in the door to puppies jumping, and my girl squealing “Mommy!”

Yes, she’s 19. Yes, she still squeals “Mommy!”

Oh, how I love coming home.

As I lay in bed that night, content and warm, the thought came to mind: I have another home too.

And when I get there, my Savior will meet me at the gate. Broad smile, twinkling eyes, ready embrace. Without decorum, I will bound into his arms and melt into his love.

I’ll turn to see my dad, my nephew, my brother and my grandparents.

I’m at mile marker 42.  Not sure where the exit is, but the sense of expectation is growing.  Some day…. One day…. we’ll all be home. And if I’m goofy giddy at the prospect of my earthly home, I can’t imagine how explosive the joy will be when I bound into the arms of my Savior.

 

Oh, how I will love coming home.