How do you reconcile a lifelong dream of owning a stable full of whinnying horses – some wild, some tame – and living on a couple square feet of land at a four-way intersection, in town?
One of the many things I love about having worked at Valesky’s Grocery Store, is being known in my town. When I started running register last summer, I really hoped that I would get to know the locals and develop relationships with all the strangers that walked the Meadville streets.
At first it seemed impossible. The other cashiers would talk about so-and-so who always came in for this, or that lady who buys the case of gallon water and needs carry-out, and I felt lost in the flurry. I had to concentrate so hard on my job, I couldn’t keep track of the regulars. Would I ever know who they were talking about? The faces all blurred behind my computer screen, so focused I was, on produce and bulk codes and cashiering procedures.
Last week, I was walking home in the rain (I run most of my errands on foot since we have one vehicle) when one of my Valesky friends pulled up to the curb and said, “Can I drop you off?”
It did get better at the store. I eventually memorized the main produce and bulk codes (around 300?) and learned the register to a “t”. I made lots of friends and loved the daily cashier-customer banter between the regulars — who I eventually learned to know! The best part of working at Valesky’s, was the exposure to Meadville town culture and community. I can’t count the many times I still run into people and they say, “Are you still working at Valesky’s?” or “Oh! I know you! You’re the flower girl!” (I ran the greenhouse for three summers.)
As I sit here writing in McDonalds, I am interrupted by Ernie who always came into the store whistling or singing. He smiles now and asks, “How are you?” Ryan and I were delighted to have a cup of coffee with Ernie, one evening he stopped in at McDonalds while we were taking advantage of WIFI.
Friday, we stopped in at the Downtown Grocery on Washington Street, and ran into a group of our beloved Kids’ Club kiddos. Martavius put his hands on his hips and said, “Hey you! You’re my Bible School teacher!” And Dvion looked over and smiled shy, like he always does.
Across from me now sit Lashon, Keeon, and Lenox, three troublesome, energetic boys that Ryan gets to teach at Tuesday night Kids’ Club. It seems God-orchestrated that we’re here at the same time as them, since we’ve been trying to track them down to inform them about VBS this week.
Last week I was puttering on my porch when a couple sauntered by. They stopped and the lady smiled and said, “Growing any watermelon this year?” I stood up from my bent-over-the-flower-pot stance, confused. “Watermelon? No, I don’t have any watermelon.” The woman was still smiling, undeterred, “Well, if you ever have any, again, I’ll take some!” Suddenly it dawned on me. Last year, sitting on my porch with my friend, Jeanie, a sweltering hot, summer afternoon, I’d given this man and woman a slice of watermelon. I smiled broad, “Oh, it’s you! I didn’t remember at first, but I gave you watermelon last year!” We both laughed. “Well, if you come by the right moment and I am sitting here with a bowl of watermelon, I’ll certainly give you some!” They waved and I watched them go, feeling happy inside.
It’s a couple of days later and I am at the library now. My friend, Alexis, is sitting next to me on her computer. She gave me a hug and we talked about seeing each other tonight at Kids’ Club. I found out she’s moving on August 5th — all the way to Hershey! — so we found each other on Facebook and will try to stay in touch.
When Will drives by, he honks three times and waves wild, and I wave back and shout “hello!”
I meet up with people in McDonalds and they nod a greeting, or sometimes I bump into my Uncle Sonny and he hugs me with his exuberant Italian gusto. People I recognize but don’t remember, honk and shout “how are you?” as they drive by.
And is this how you reconcile a lifelong dream of owning a stable full of whinnying horses – some wild, some tame – and living on a couple square feet of land at a four-way intersection, in town?
I dream of leather bridle between fingers and mucky barn boots and horse-stenched clothes, all while I fall more in love with the traffic lights and four-way stops of Meadville, streets lined with homes housing people, the knowing and being known in my down-home, little town.