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Being thankful for the things that you don't have.
Mark A Stuart
43 year old former Naval officer and professional manager that grew up in Southwest Georgia and believes that others may find interest in the lifestyle and events of small towns. I am a father of two beautiful girls that has been married to a wonderful woman for 18 years who has encouraged me to follow my desires and write.
AUTHOR'S E-MAIL ADDRESS
|AUTHOR'S OTHER TITLES (10)
Bad Habits (Short Stories) Sometimes old habits aren't useful in new places. [710 words]
Charity (Short Stories) Lessons of about human kindness and the shortage thereof. [3,818 words]
Driving Miss Rachel (Short Stories) Some advice on dealing with new drivers in your household. [719 words]
Dying (Short Stories) Story of the coming death of a small town in SouthWest Geargia. [1,227 words] [Writing Resource]
First Love (Novels) Story of a young boy's first foray into the world of the opposite sex. [4,987 words]
Flight School (Short Stories) Story about a young boy's refusal to accept conventional wisdom. [1,733 words]
Gone Already (Short Stories) COnfusion can arise out of good intentions. [2,452 words]
Grass Fields (Short Stories) Learning lessons the hard way. [3,276 words]
Snakes (Short Stories) Teenage foolishness involving reptiles, drunks, and firearms. [3,107 words]
The Abduction Of Sammy Lee (Short Stories) Tale of a kidnapping in a small SouthWest Georgia town. [6,320 words]
Mark A Stuart
One of the things about growing up in a small town is that if you should ever move, you will find yourself forever comparing your current place of residence with your old town.
You know we never had a Chinese restaurant. We didn’t even have a McDonalds. We never had a movie theater. We had no large shopping centers. No Old Navy, No Bass Pro shop. No Walmart. No humongous grocery store featuring food from 37 different nations. No Barnes and Noble. Shoot – we didn’t even have a functioning traffic light until I was in high school.
I still remember the first time that I was taking my future wife to visit my parents. She inquired as to what stores were located in the mall in Arlington. I had to break the news to her that my town featured a couple of Seven Elevens and about 3 gas stations that usually had a good sale on Red Wigglers going, but alas, no mall. I don’t think she believed me. I was beyond her ken to imagine that there were places as small as Arlington.
“How do you live? What do people eat? What do they wear? What do they do?” She was full of questions.
“You’ll see.” It was all I knew to say.
Of course she did see and for the next decade or so after our initial visit and ensuing visits, I was subjected to an often updated list of what did not exist in my town. This was not news to me having lived there for a good portion of my life, but like any sensible husband that preferred the bed to the couch, I listened to and noted with apparent interest, the serious shortcomings of my native turf.
This might still be going on today, aside from the fact that after 18 years of marriage, I finally became comfortable enough with my status as life partner to bring it to a crashing halt during the last inventory of missing essentials.
“You know, everything that you have said is true beyond any shadow of a doubt. There is absolutely and positively no denying the immense dearth of infrastructure, commerce and civic opportunities facing the good citizens of my hometown. I have been so moved by your cataloging of missing items that I have been inspired to make a list of my own.” This quickly got my wife’s attention as this was never the way the conversation had progressed previously. I think she believed that she had finally encompassed all of our need in one tidy package and the thought of revisions to the list was not particularly appealing after all these years.
“Well let’s hear your list”, she said tentatively.
“It’s pretty long. Are you sure?”
“Of course I’m sure. What could I have left off that you managed to come up with?” One thing about my dear wife – she is very sure of herself, (and I hasten to add, lest the couch claim me as a permanent resident; usually with good reason).
“OK then. My town has no traffic jams. It doesn’t have any crazed road raged induced idiots as are commonly spotted on I-285 applying make-up or tweezing their eyebrows while driving 87 miles an hour. The last time I checked, we had no soccer moms running you off the shoulder while talking on the cell phone to their therapist. We have no smog; in fact the air may be too clean for today’s Homo sapiens. We don’t normally have crack thugs stealing from old ladies at the mall. We never have a shortage of food at the covered dish dinners. We never have dinner parties where Cosmo food is served. We don’t have encounter groups that meet each Tuesday to discuss the migrating habits of African swallows. We don’t have parents lined up outside the teacher’s classroom wondering why Johnny can’t be allowed to express himself freely by mooning the teacher. We don’t have a daily column in the newspaper devoted to that particular day’s drug busts. We don’t have people protesting the pledge of allegiance at the school board monthly and we don’t have a Church of Enlightenment and Kung Fu. We have no weight loss spas and we have no people that would not give you the shirt off their backs if you needed it. We don’t have regular political scandals to keep things entertaining and we don’t have an Olympic Water Ballet team.”
“All right. Enough already.”
“But I’m not even half way through the list. And I haven’t even started on what we do have.” I really wanted to relate this list to her. Even though I live in a relatively larger town now, we have never had a cane-Squeezin’ or a hog killing festival, let alone a Mayday parade.
“I give. You win.”
I accepted her capitulation with all the dignity and grace that comes with being married for a length of time and a healthy fear of being exiled. It was difficult to do so as it may have been only the second time in my married life that I had been in victory lane, and I was not all that familiar with how to act when it happened, but I struggled through it. It made me mindful of how living in a small town does take on a feeling of being the perpetual underdog. How people think that because you grew up in a small town that you are somehow stupid or at the very best underprivileged and unaware of all the things that you are missing. That it must be impossible to live, let alone thrive. I believe sometimes that all the local churches, given the slightest encouragement, would send care packages and Christmas gifts to Arlington. Of course, that assumes they know it exists.
My thought on all of this is: the next time that you feel the least bit discouraged for having missed out on all the culture, excitement, and convenience that awaits you in the next greener and inescapably, larger pasture, remember all of those things that you don’t have.
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© 2004 Mark A Stuart
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