Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Small Town Living: The Gathering Spot

Every small town has one...the place where long-time residents gather to share their news, gossip about others' news, solve the world's problems and just generally stay updated.

One of the spots in my small town is McDonald's. I discovered that in my BWD (before work days). After the death of my husband I started going out for a morning coffee, just to get out of the house. I'd take along a book and sit for an hour or two, reading and sipping my coffee.

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.

I've had to trade my leisurely morning coffee for a cup to go but still stop in for lunch from time to time as well as breakfast on weekends. The staff is still friendly and welcoming and the conversation continues to ebb and flow....
[originally published on my personal blog on September 6, 2006]

As I have traveled the country, visiting all fifty states over the last several years, I've continued to see this in towns big and small. The gatherings...they still make me smile.

22 comments:

  1. Awesome post, Donna. When I was working, 'retiree gathering spots' like this held a sense of awe and wonder for me. Now that I have arrived (in retirement that is), I don't join into these specific gatherings as often as I could...but I am filled with gratitude when I do!

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    1. We have seen this all over the country as we've traveled - gathering spots. I still love to sit and eavesdrop to get a flavor for the local area. Thanks for stopping by!

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  2. Beautiful post Donna and thanks so much for sharing at #MLSTL. I live in a city but love the idea of 'gathering spots'. We do have them with cafes and coffee shops but I don't believe they have the same feeling of belonging as the gathering spots you describe. I really enjoyed reading your thought. Have a great day! xx
    Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond

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    1. Coffee shops just aren't quite the same but a decent substitute for the people watching aspect. Appreciate the read and comment, Sue.

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  3. Hi Donna, it was a pleasure to read your thoughts today on gathering spots. Funny, my #MLSTL post was a similar theme. I guess these themes are important in our lives and it is easy to be too busy to engage in them, especially working from home. Nice to meet you!

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    1. I just read and commented on your post - it is a similar theme. Friendships!! Thanks for stopping by, much appreciated (oh, and I shared your on my social media, forgot to put that in the comment).

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  4. What a lovely post giving us a slice of your life in a small town. I'm currently on a 1000km bike trek in aid of charity, supporting my husband and a friend who are bicycle riding while I back up. I'm finding myself alone in small towns in SWAustralia, doing very much the same as you. Fascinating and sometimes humbling too. Coming to you from MLSTLParty.

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    1. Wow! What a trek....it is fun to travel, especially when you can take the time to savor the locales. Thanks so much for dropping by!

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  5. Loved reading this post about your community. We live in an isolated area but our closest small community has Community Coffee Catch up at the hotel which has a coffee shop attached. They open earlier in this day and many, old and young, come along #MLSTL Shared on SM

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    1. Oooh, that sounds like fun! We are now living in a more rural area and I wish we had something like that. It used to be you knew all your neighbors but that just isn't the way of it anymore. We do try to go out of our way to meet new folks but I love the "sitting back" in a quiet spot and just people watching (and listening). Thanks for stopping in!

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  6. I live in a small-ish (getting bigger all the time) community and our local cafe has become my gathering spot. It's where I meet a friend or two for coffee each week - they know how I like my coffee and I see the same faces regularly and we smile and say hi. Less working certainly makes for more community interaction.

    Thanks for linking up with us at #MLSTL and I've shared this on my SM xx
    Leanne | www.crestingthehill.com.au

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    1. I've lived in large cities like Miami and small towns with a population of under 500. The older I get, the more I enjoy the small towns and the familiarity of things (and people).

      Thanks for coming by to read and comment, Leanne.

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  7. That is a lovely story. We have moved to a new and different community from where we were before: in the capital city. I see different people around the place at some of the venues I go to for coffee and it is nice to be noticed and for people to say hello. They might also remember I have had some surgeries for cancer and ask how I am. Making connections is what we humans crave! Glad you have found ways to do this too. Denyse #mlstl

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    1. Thanks, Denyse. Connections - perfect description. I appreciate your dropping and to say HI...our online connect.

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  8. Hello Donna,
    Nice, simple post, so well written. Captures the mood and ambience.
    Though I am over 50, I am still working. So, I am yet to be there.
    But in our small community here, there are elders who get together every evening for a chat.
    I am sure it's not only refreshing, but helps in bonding with one another.
    Came to your post via #MLSTL. Sharing this on my social media.
    -- Pradeep | bpradeepnair.blogspot.com

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    1. Pradeep, how wonderful to hear about the elders and their evening chats. Someday, I hope you will get to enjoy those same types of gatherings. Thank you for stopping in.

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  9. Tim Hortons takes the place of McDonalds in many Canadian small towns, but it's the certainly the same thing. People have 'their' tables where they meet to chat, sometimes daily. It's wonderful to see. Thanks for bringing this simple form of community building to the fore, Donna. #MLSTL

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    1. I hear so much about Tim Hortons from my Canadian friends, fun to hear it's also a gathering spot. I sat at one table so much, the staff would tell me if it was occupied when I ordered my coffee. LOL!

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  10. My ex-husband meets for breakfast most mornings at the local Burger King. So many people in the area have known each other since grade school so everyone keeps up with what is going on in the neighborhood.

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    1. I think we have lost a lot with progress and mobility. I grew up in the same small town with two sets of grandparents. My grandkids are scattered across multiple states and years go by between visits. Yes, a bit of yearning for the old days. Thanks for dropping in.

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  11. You've given me the urge to get out and find a local gathering spot. I love the quiet of my own deck but there's an isolation there, too.

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    1. Isolation was the reason I got up and started this habit...it would have been so easy to become a hermit after my husband died. Now I wish I were a bit closer to a spot like this. There have been a couple but they've all closed down. The closest is 30 miles away. Sigh...

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