A few days ago, I had a small meltdown.  Someone I went to high school with invited me to a “friends from our hometown” style Facebook group. I loved growing up there, but I had a lot of baggage to leave behind. I’ve only been back a handful of times in the decades since high school.


photo via MorgueFile

One of the first threads on the “Friends from” page was (of course) a getting to know you thread. How are you connected to this tiny place in the middle of nowhere? It looks so innocent on the surface, but for me it’s a rabbit hole of a question that leads straight to the freak out zone for me.  My family closet is full of so many skeletons that I could stage my own Danse Macabre.  It’s all past history, but people in my small town do not forget. I very much enjoy the freedom of living far away where nobody cares whose secret baby I am.

Now, thanks to the magic of Facebook, my hometown looms. The woman who started the “Friends from. . .” group seems like a very nice person.  Her family history is interesting and while she’s whitewashing a lot, she’s not misrepresenting, only making it into a kinder, gentler memory. I try to clean up my own parcel of rogues and all I have left to say is that my dad raised sheep on the Reservation.

I can relate the scandalous antics of my family history with hardly a blush– to anyone who’s not from my hometown. But when I start talking to anyone from the place, I feel like I’m walking into a field of landmines. I love my family and I love their stories. The bigamists and secret spouses, the crazy divorces, the ladies of ill-repute and alleged cattle rustlers, the secret babies. Out here in the world, it’s all fabulous, wild, wild west stories to amuse. Back there, it seems too personal and tender to share. Who are your people? Who do you come from? Yes, this is indeed the root of who we are. But that root can be seen through many different lenses. I prefer a long distance, detachable one.

5 thoughts on “Smalltownia

  1. I joined FB a few years back and happily added friends from the long distance past to my roster.

    Then, one by one, I unfriended them again. Not enough in common to make the investment of cyber time worth it.

    Now I’m off FB and happier without cyber updates from people who are no longer in my sphere of orbit.

    Good luck deciding what to do.

  2. I stay as far distant from my small hometown as possible. I don’t understand why *anyone* stays, especially when you have a family history like mine. Small town memories are steel traps and their imaginations are strange sieves. So if your mother’s mother was X and your sister’s ex was Z, then you must be from the no-good branch of R, and if you’re not prepared to defend your existence every time you go to the grocery store and see someone who knows all about That Thing That Happened In ’89, then you better just leave, PDQ.

    I am miserable every time I set foot back in that place. I went to my sister’s wedding last summer and 3 days was enough for a lifetime. I can’t fathom connecting with any of those people, especially not virtually.


    {It’s not “baggage” so much as it is a Steamer Trunk of Reality. Kinda hard to travel light when “home” is the destination.}

    Good luck, whatever you decide. 🙂

  3. Your post sent me off on a journey of my own about all the facets of my life that are best viewed through a long, detachable lens. I was born into a vagabond life with three years the maximum we ever stayed in once place, so my experiences are very different from yours and other smalltownia dwellers, but the need to move off and away and on with my life sounds very much like your own. I’ve talked with many friends here in Texas still living 40-50 years in the past, re-living the “Hail Mary passes” and the slim waistlines of those long-ago days. What’s the point?

    • I also prefer living in the present. There’s so much to do and celebrate right here, right now. Memory Lane is okay for a brief stroll, but I sure as hell don’t want to live there.

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