My son lives in New York City, and I don’t think there is a better choice for a 24 year old college grad. And believe me, he is living the city life to the max, and enjoying every bit of it.
Yet there is much to be said for the small town life. There is no personal touch, no personal individualized caring that matches life in a small town.
For me, this story starts in 1955. I started kindergarten that year in a small brick building that had been a k-12 school in the 1800’s. One of the students, a boy named Richie, obviously had physical and mental health issues. I did not know what these issues were, and to be honest, I still am not sure. In a time and place that preceded the level of understanding of special needs students of today, Richie was handled with care and concern by a teacher who obviously had no training in working with such a child.
In my 13 years of being a student in the school district, I saw Richie often. When we reached high school, Richie was located in a small classroom where he spent the bulk of his day with one special ed. teacher.
But it was outside the classroom that Richie became more noticeable. During the afternoons and weekends, Richie cruised through town and made a number of regular stops. He always visited the fire house, Philly’s barber shop, and Howie’s soda shop.
Couldn’t tell you who Richie’s family was. I didn’t know who his parents were, or even if he was raised under other circumstances.
But I did know this- Richie definitely fell under the heading of ‘It takes a village.’ Everyone, all in the village, had a hand in raising that young man. The firemen, first and foremost, were incredibly protective of him, and always took him out to a fine restaurant on his birthday. From the firehouse, Richie made his way to Philly’s barber shop- that is where I usually ran into him. Richiie would sit in the corner by the front window, and cross examine me on the status of my four brothers and sisters. He knew where they lived, their spouses names, and how many children they had. And, of course, he knew everything about my parents.
After a bit of time, Richie would get restless, and head off to Howie’s. Know this about our town. Richie was ALWAYS watched. Mrs. Blizzard would glance out her window, the Hadaways would look out the door, and the Kovars would check in. To be honest, Richie was aware enough to ever get himself into a problematic situation. But no one was taking any chances.
A few years ago Richie passed away. My life circumstance was such that I was not able to attend his funeral. I was not even aware of the funeral till well past the time it happened. I understand that everyone in the village attended. How I wish I was there.
Gives me chills to hear of all that the firemen did to honor his memory.
And Philly probably had to close the barber shop for the day, not to mention keeping Richie’s seat a place of honor in the corner.
And I can’t even imagine what Howie did.
But when I drive into New York City to visit my son, understand that I love the hell out of being there.
But I also know that I am leaving something very special behind me.
There is nothing like small town life.