Simplicity. Life that moves at a pace that seems so much slower than what I have become accustomed to.
That is the small town farm community where my parents live. After years spent in the suburban hustle of the Chicago area, a visit to the south central Illinois town is almost foreign to me, my blood pressure dropping the moment my foot hits the ground next to my car. I like it. I miss it. I often wish for it. Like the casseroles and meats served at the countless number of church potluck dinners, just driving into that little town is a comfort to me.
Their town is a place where expectations dwell more on character than on the physical. Oh, there is plenty of affluence there, especially on the large farms carefully maintained and nurtured in the prime black soil of central Illinois. There are nice homes, but not like the extravagance seen in the suburban excess that surrounds my home, pride shown more in the upkeep of an old homestead rather than a large new edifice. I sense the history of the little town, seen in the old homes, the same landmarks still in the same place they were thirty years ago when I lived there. A drive with dad brings on many stories as each landmark reminds him of something that happened at that spot or with a person who lived close by. I understand why my parents will never move to Florida or someplace away from that small town. Their heart is there and they will not leave it behind.
Sometimes I feel a tug at my own heart when I am there. A piece of me still is a part of that part of the world, even though my parents live in a different town than I was raised in. It’s close enough that the town they live in is still familiar to me. The town is where dad’s family comes from.
Mir always laughs at me when we come home from a trip south, even if only for a day.
“You sound like a hick.”
The small town drawl comes right back to me. I like the friendly voices, I feel the voices as the warmth of the people I know there comes to me. So many people know each other, the existence of each person depending on all of the people each one knows. In that small town, you know everyone in a way that is just not possible in the suburban speed. The pace is such that you can take the time to know – because you have to know. Some might call that gossip if they are not familiar with small town ways.
We went to church with my parents last Sunday morning. For a farm community, their church is large with a new building that can be seen from a long ways away, mostly because it sits in the middle of the corn fields on land donated by a retired farmer. Our suburban church is enormous, with polished and rehearsed church services complete with carefully prepared media and professional musicians. The people at our church dress in the latest styles with modern hair, new. That is not so at my parents’ church, church services filled with old hymns accompanied by choppy country style piano, sung by tone deaf farmers with slicked down hair, uncomfortable in their Sunday best. My kids always snicker with a hand covering their mouth, a bit disrespectful of the portly wives as they warble next to the husbands while clad in old polyester dresses or stretch pants and Christmas sweaters, their hair done up in braids or permanent curls. While a woman sang a special song about Jesus’ birth, a young woman dressed in a makeshift bedsheet robe walked slowly up the middle aisle while holding a baby doll Jesus, unrehearsed, no real purpose for the trip evident. It was simple. And the people there thought it was great. The sermon was brass tacks gospel, so basic – and so right. I remember when that was all I required to hear, when I did not require the bells and whistles in order to worship. My family struggles to understand the significance. I struggle to understand how anything else is required.
I need simplicity. Life that moves at a pace that seems so much slower than what I have become accustomed to. Life that is slow enough to be appreciated, where you see the things you miss when you let it zoom by.
Soon the holiday will be over. We will take down the yard decorations, drive quickly out of our neighborhood rather than slow down to look. Life will return to normal. Fast. What will I miss? I am glad that I get a chance to slow down now and then.