Blame It All On My Roots
I grew up in the small town of Collinwood, Tennessee. According to Google, the population was a little over a thousand when I graduated high school in 1998. I remember hearing so many people say, "I can't wait to get out of this place," as we neared high school graduation. I never really itched to leave, but life took me to Florence, Alabama, population a little over 39,000 in 1998, for college where I also got a job and met my husband.
Small towns, like any town, come with pros and cons. The older I get the more goodness I glean from growing up in such a quaint little town.
This month has been filled with much sadness and tragedy in my hometown--as well as in a neighboring small town of Summertown, TN. So many deaths leave me sitting here a little more aware of my own mortality. I'm fully aware it could happen to anyone at anytime...even me. Although, David and I have jokingly made a pact to pass away together in 2083 holding hands in our sleep. I will be 103.
Recently, my Mom lost her fiance unexpectedly. So hard. It still seems somewhat surreal.
A sweet lady from Collinwood whose family we have known for years passed away, at age 44, after a battle with cancer.
My graduating class lost a member suddenly. We are all still in shock.
When I read the obituary of my former classmate who passed away unexpectedly, I began to fill my name in the blank, because I know I am not immune to death's grip. Maybe that's weird to do such a thing, but I did it as a reminder to not take a moment for granted. One day, God will call me home. I need to be ready.
Being from the south, decorations are a part of life. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, shows up and decorates the graves of loved ones with beautiful flowers. Tomorrow is decoration where a lot of my family is buried, including my sweet Daddy. Today as my Mom and I traveled across the graveyard to deliver our flowers, I thought, "One day my name will be on a stone. I will be a memory."
Having spent a lot of time at funeral homes in the past couple of weeks, my heart is extra heavy tonight. I have finally found a moment of quiet to reflect trying to rope in some random thoughts.
When tragedy strikes, the people in a small town come together. It's community in every sense of the word. There's never a lack of food, flowers, hugs, and prayers. It doesn't matter where you go to church or where you work, people take care of one another.
The circle of life continues on. One minute I was the one being asked "Who are your parents?" and the next minute I find myself looking around a crowded funeral home seeing familiar faces in teenagers and young adults, and I am the the one asking, "Who are your parents?" When I get an answer, I probably do know the parents of the person I asked. I tell the young one how I know their Momma or Daddy. They smile not really knowing what to say back. And I remember feeling the same way when a stranger would ask me, "Are you Tom and Peggy's girl?"
When you're young, it's almost impossible to see the specialness of such a place. It's like you have to leave to truly appreciate its charm. Most everyone knows everyone else. And if you don't know them, you can ask someone nearby, and they can tell you. Sometimes they can tell you a lot more than you asked for. Ha I guess that's where the bad rep comes into play.
When you leave a place like Collinwood, you assume you know everyone in the world, so you aren't typically afraid to strike up a conversation with a stranger. It's a place that teaches connection--whether intentionally or not.
Even though I don't live in Tennessee anymore, it's a place I am always proud to call home. It's a place where I could walk from high school to the local convenience store, before I had a license, to get a snack before or after ball practice. The same convenience store had a pay phone out front. I used it to call my Momma to ask to stay out a little later than curfew.
It's a town where you didn't get by with much, because someone in town would see you do what you did or hear about what you did and tell your Momma and em. Yes, we say "em." It's short for "them."
It's a town where my Grandmother would say, "Skin a possum," when she helped me change my shirt as a child, and where she threatened to tear my brother up like "the first year's new ground" if he didn't do what she said. It's a town where I shelled purple hulled peas until my fingers were sore and broke beans until I was sick of it.
It's a town with a back roads named "Bucksnort," and where most everyone has a nickname like "Wild Bill," "Dooley," "Coonie Mack," and "Chigger."
It's a town which has come together over and over again having benefits for those in the community with needs to make sure bills could be paid and food and medicine could be purchased. I'm sure there are exceptions, but in my experience, it's a place which takes care of its people. And everyone is considered your people.
It's a tiny place with gigantic heart.
Currently, I live in an absolutely amazing town in Alabama, but my roots are deep in the soil of Tennessee even if my body never will be.
Tonight, I thank God for Tennessee, especially Collinwood, my hometown, the 234th biggest city in Tennessee.