Small towns

Where my brother works they have removed the conventional coffee maker and replaced it with one of those single-serve coffee machines. These are great except there is never a pot of coffee at the ready. And each person has to bring his or her own single serve supplies. So knowing how absent-minded Jon is I have taken to sending him boxes of them so he will (generally) have them, unless I forget too.

One of the coffee brands I bought this time was something I have tried and liked before called Community Coffee. Somehow this made me think of small towns. You know, where there is a dry goods or general store on a prominent street corner and everybody gathers there at various times of the day sitting out on the front of the store drinking coffee, or around the wood stove or some kind of heat source inside the store.

I lived in a really small town for a while in middle Tennessee that had such a store. It was the kind of place where no matter what she felt like that day the proprietress would greet you with a great big smile and a hello and, if applicable, a reminder that your monthly “tab” was getting larger than normal or it had been a pretty smart while since you’d paid it and you might want to pay on it when next you came in. All the latest gossip could be found here, passed along in unruffled monotones, same as the day’s farm report or weather forecast.

And they sold everything, from lollipops to clothes irons to chicken feed to canned goods. Hard-scrubbed bare wooden floors, shelves along the walls and through the center of the store laden with all manner of mercantile, the cash register area groaning with overstuffed magazine rack, cigarettes, cigars, toys, candy and overwhelming clutter. And if they didn’t have it and you needed it right away well they knew just where to get it or, if you could wait, they could have it for you in a matter of a few days.

Something about these stores was friendly and true. There was a sense about them that so long as they were here there is a center to life that could be referenced to, where you and everything else mattered.

And your favorite box of cereal or brand of chili peppers was always in the same place on the shelf.


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