Saturday, January 15, 2011

My Hometown

"Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?—every, every minute?"
~Emily in Our Town by Thorton Wilder

Additional Reading:

                I don’t know where to begin. I do not love my hometown…my love for my hometown is brimming over? The relationship I have with Mansfield, Missouri is a bittersweet one and I have just as many bad memories as I do good ones.
                 I liken my relationship to Mansfield to the relationship Rose Wilder Lane must have had with the town and maybe this is why I’ve always had an affinity for Rose. I love Rose Wilder Lane. I’m not sure the people of Mansfield do. She said their schools weren’t good enough, she didn't marry and settle down in the town, she was a divorced Libertarian come back to help her parents, but she did not join in with the town…instead she wrote about it. And, in the same manner as Harold Bell Wright in The Calling of Dan Matthews, her book of short stories Old Home Town ruffled the feathers of those in the town who knew the stories were about them. She eventually moved to Connecticut, where she had a barn for a library and staved off stories that she wrote the Little House books by adamantly proclaiming she helped with the editing and that is all. Many of her biographers say otherwise.
                You see, we’re reading Our Town in my Sophomore English classes. Reading this play always makes me feel nostalgic for a Mansfield, Missouri that I’m not sure has existed during my life time. Growing up, we went to baseball and basketball games. When I was little we went to a place called Susy Qs and got orange soda floats and curly fries after we cheered for Mighty Mights football. My sisters and I would walk to the library, which was just down the road, and the librarian would know exactly what books we wanted to check out. We cruised the “Y”. When our friends passed away in accidents or of illness we went to their funerals. We knew everything about everyone. I remember thinking, “Wow, nothing happens in this town.” And, nothing did? I have learned that everything happened in that town.  I've also learned that it’s those kids who love this play and cherish their home town of Lebanon, Missouri that have something on me, they’ve learned to love their hometown and at an early age they’ve learned to have ‘roots and wings’ too! (Thank you very much “Sweet Home Alabama”!)
It is because of this play, Our Town,  (granted I didn’t make this effort until I was 25) that I listen to and look at my mother when she’s speaking, that I cherish the moments I have with my family and friends and it is because of this play that I try to inculcate in my students a love for a town that many of them don’t really like. And, it’s when we read this play that I begin to think about the town in which I live currently.
My life in Lebanon resembles the same bittersweet love I have for Mansfield. I have just as many good memories as bad, I long for a Lebanon that I’m not sure ever existed (a Lebanon that I see in postcards and books) and I have to take a deep breath and realize that while I consider many days here to be boring and useless...there really is soooooo much going on.  There’s a great documentary called “Jo’s Town”, it encapsulates all that is beautiful about small towns, about America, about Lebanon and the gloriousness of living. It’s about a young lady from Lebanon, who played Rebecca Gibbs in the 1978 LHS production of Our Town, she died in a car accident during her senior year. To honor her memory,  the cast, 20 years later, reproduces the play. It chronicles their lives since the play and shows how some people and things never change. A couple of my friends and I went to watch the documentary at Summer's Auditorium a few years ago, and it made us all cry, not because of the fact that this girl died in real life--we did not know her, but because this girl lived and continues to live in each of her friends. We don’t know how many lives we touch and who we change just because we are born.
According to Wilder, life just comes in three short acts, Daily Life, Love and Marriage, and Death and Eternity and, he says in The Woman of Andros, "Suddenly the hero saw that the living too are dead and that we can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasure". What is your treasure and how are you conscious of it?

Christopher and I in front of Wrink's Market at the beginning of our trip on the Mother Road with our friend (she's taking the picture). Historic Route 66 runs right through Lebanon, on Elm street.

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