This gave me time to watch the interaction between the locals and eventually get to know many of them. The farmers who have retired and discuss local haying that needs to be done. The young mothers with small children in tow, meeting grandparents....or just as often the grandparents with young children in tow, baby-sitting for the day. The high school age kids catching a quick breakfast on the way to school or, in the summer, grabbing a bite with friends. Local law enforcement, business owners, realtors, social workers, local politicians....visiting with friends, neighbors and co-workers.
The conversation flows around me, I catch it in snatches. Sometimes our eyes meet, we nod our heads and exchange a smile. On occasion that moves into our own conversation, sometimes a new friendship starts.
"Was that Mary's boy in the crash over by the bridge last night?" "No, it was Bill & Sara's boy." "The young one?" "No, the older one. You know...the one who's always in trouble".
"Did you see what they done to that house on the corner?" "You mean the Johnson's?" "No, the old Miller house." "I thought they tore that down..." "Nope, ya gotta go by there and see it."
"How's your mom doing?" "Better, she still misses Dad but her ladies church group is keeping her busy. Don't know what she'd do without them."
"Did you hear that old Joe died this weekend?" or "I heard Sylvie's getting worse, they don't know how long she has." or "Mary Jo's boy had a baby last week."
Over the last two years I have come to know many of these folks, not usually by name but by face. We exchange pleasantries, I get teased about reading so much, we smile and know that we are not alone in the world.
A few years have passed, the people have come and gone and that includes me. When I'm back in my small town I drop in from time to time. The staff is still friendly and welcoming and the conversation continues to ebb and flow....