Once years ago I was walking through the mall in North Charleston, SC, and spoke to someone I knew in passing. A few feet down the corridor I realized I hadn’t seen him since Okinawa, Japan! I chuckled and thought, “yes, the Air Force really is a small community!”
In light of that, why do I find it hard sometimes to adjust to small town life in this area? Eleven years ago when I met my husband, Tommy, we both marveled at the synchronicity of our lives. We had had the same dentist for nearly 20 years; we had mutual friends in common; we bought new vehicles at the same dealership 2 weeks apart only a few months before; our first marriages took place only 2 weeks apart here in the Athens area in 1970; and yet we had never crossed paths before a singles ad, of all things, brought us together. We decided this match just had to be!
Then why did it feel so strange when my electrician, Billy Gabriel, and his grandson mention we had the same chiropractor? And why did it seem so amazing that the chimney sweep’s recommended brick mason turned out to be a relative of Tommy’s by marriage?
I’ve lived in the Athens area continuously since 1983 and I have finally gotten used to the fact that it is common that Tommy and I run across someone one of us knows whenever we go to the grocery store or Home Depot or a restaurant. I had lived in Athens for over 5 years before I ever ran into anyone I knew, even though I actually graduated from Athens High School, and my parents lived here for over 20 years.
Now I’ve moved into an isolated spot in the country with not a neighbor in sight. But I was lonelier in Athens, more cut off from people in the “city”. Here, I mention a name, such as Donna Disque, in a column. She reported to me that everyone reads the Echo—she knows because they all told her they saw her name!
There’s a vast community out here in Oglethorpe County that I had heard about. My husband even has history here—he was the county ranger back in the late 1960’s/early 1970’s. But as I finally meet that community, I’m still constantly surprised how connected we all are, and, that for the first time as an adult, I am becoming part of an established community. I have so long accepted my presence as an outsider, that discovering what it’s like on the inside is truly one surprise after another. What is truly amazing is my husband’s reaction to this, which is probably your reaction: “But, Delia, this is normal! Boy, are you weird!”