I grew up in a small town not far from where I live now. I really loved living and growing up there but for now I’m in love with the convenience, culture and opportunities that my larger city life affords.
We go back there to visit my parents quite often and when we do the conversation inevitably turns to town gossip. I enjoy a little gossip, however the majority of the time I have no idea who they’re talking about. Sure every once in a while I’ll know the person, after all I did grow up in that town, but I’m not good with names. I have cousins whose names I can’t remember - let alone some guy I’ve never met who lives in a town that I haven’t lived in for about 13 years.
Sometimes I just flat out say that I don’t know who it is. I tell them I have no clue, don’t recall or never did know them in the first place. Other times I like to play along, simply because it seems to bring them a strange sense of satisfaction. I call it the "6 degrees of You Know Who", similar to the 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon but with no cinematic knowledge required:
Mom: “Did you hear about Ed Smith?”
Me: “I don’t know who Ed Smith is.”
Mom: “Oh you know who Ed is. He used to be married to that gal that had that little antique shop on 4th street. They’re divorced now.”
Me: “Nope, doesn’t ring a bell.”
Mom: “You remember, she used to sell Avon and they had a boy, what was his name? Joe? Jared?”
Dad: “I think it was Josh.”
Mom: “Yes, Josh. Was he ahead of you in school or behind you?”
Me: “I don’t know.”
Mom: “ I think he was older than you. He played baseball I think.”
Me: “Was he a pitcher?”
Dad: “I think he played 3rd, but he might have pitched too. Do you remember him?”
Me: “No, I just always pay more attention to pitchers, they’re more glamorous, like the quarterbacks of baseball.”
Mom: “Oh. Well he just got married.”
Me: “Who? Ed or Josh?”
Mom: “Josh, the son.”
Me: “Oh yeah?”
Mom: “He married that gal, Teresa, that manages the convenient store on the north end of town.”
Me: “Uh huh.” (staring blankly)
Mom: “Oh you know, she used to be a cheerleader. She was in that bad car wreck her senior year with that other girl who was dating that kid in your class.”
Me: “What kid in my class?”
Mom: “Steve or something like that, used to play the trumpet. His sister was in 4-H with you.”
Me: “Oh, okay, yeah. Yeah, Steve. I remember Steve.” (At least I think I remember Steve or am I thinking of Sam? No Sam didn’t have a sister . . . They’re really excited that I remembered Steve so I’m going to go with it.)
Mom: “Well then you’ll remember that he dated that Anderson girl. Not the oldest, I think she was the youngest one.”
Me: “Yeah!” (I don’t remember anyone named Anderson but I’m not letting on)
Mom: “Remember she was in that terrible car wreck on prom night, broke her legs I think. Well this gal Teresa was with her and got hurt too. You remember that right?”
Me: “Yeah, of course.” (At this point I’m beginning to wonder if I was abducted by aliens at some point and the majority of my memories were removed for their research purposes because none of this is ringing a bell. I do remember a bright light in the cornfield when I was about 17 . .. )
Mom: “Yes! Well the other day Ed’s pickup was stolen right out of his driveway and . . . “
And then 10 minutes later we’re back on Ed, who I still don’t know and yet since I remembered the ex boyfriend of the high school friend of his new daughter-in-law it’s now assumed that I’ve known dear old Ed my entire life.
I used to find it really annoying and now I just go with it and I love it! It invokes such small town nostalgia. Sometimes I miss that small town feel. I miss that you can go into town and recognize the majority of the people on the street. Sure you might not know them well or even know their names, but you just might know that their wife’s daughter from her fist marriage just had a baby out of wedlock with that kid that used to get in trouble all the time for skateboarding on the courthouse steps and spray-painting the water tower. And if that doesn’t foster a sense of small town warmth and friendship then I don’t know what does!