Infamy in a Small Town

In a small town there may be one (at most two) people who are impressed with you because you’ve written NOVELS. Fair enough. Why should they be impressed? After all you did get the Donkey Basketball  fundraiser cancelled when you wrote that thoughtful letter to the school superintendent questioning the idea of people humiliating donkeys who probably would rather not be laughed at and kicked up and down a slippery gym floor. You think it a bit much that the teacher who organized the event called you a bitch to her high school class (she doesn’t even know you and your step-daughter was in the classroom at the time and almost died), but you forgive the teacher–the event in past years made a lot of money and it was her claim to fame.

No one cares if you’re a writer when you are the second wife of a Navy man in a small town because the first wife is a native daughter with a, let’s say, talkative way about her and a talent for spinning sad stories of her own. At the bank they called you “the second wife” in derisive whispers, but they’ve warmed up to you a little since they see how often you make banking mistakes.

025And they all know about the time you were in a hurry to attend a parent/teacher meeting, swung into a parking spot and barely touched the car next to yours (a teacher’s car). You panicked, went home to bring a child back to ask this child if he saw any marks on the teacher’s car, went home again to get cleaning fluid, came back to leave a note, took away the note and never even considered just going into the school to tell what happened. A few days later the school called and you gave a tearful apology. Luckily there really was no damage to either car, but still, things like that–and the fact that you drive a white minivan with a CUBS license plate–stick with people.

Your husband counts down the years until his almost grown children will no longer sing in school chorus programs, but you quite enjoy the band and some of the songs (though not the theme songs from Disney movies). The Navy guy always sits way in the back of the auditorium so he doesn’t have to see his ex-wife. On this night you have along with you a lovely though fragile foster kid. She’s excited. She wants to feel grown-up and sits a few seats down. When the auditorium gets crowded and a student on stage asks for quiet you whisper to the girl to move closer. She pretends  not to hear you so you whisper louder and more imploringly. This triggers a secret horrible memory of her abusive mother who had a fondness for electrical tape. The girl whispers your name with big eyes and confesses she’s scared. Before you can do a thing and as the first nervous notes of a student soloist hit the air the foster girl screams your name–at least three times as you head for the door.

The show is stopped. The room is silent. Everyone recovers their senses. The show begins again, but you’re outside trying to calm the kid down. She’s having none of it and runs away. The Navy guy says let her run or she’ll keep stealing the show. It gets dark. The concert ends, and we’ve been searching for over an hour–with the police. Each car that leaves the show is stopped to be shown a picture of the little girl. The drivers glance over to see the Navy man answering questions about the girl in the squad car. What must they think? Someone says what they think: I saw that girl being kidnapped from the concert!

037You drive towards home but turn around thinking she couldn’t have made it this far. You turn around again because you really have no idea what to do and 8 miles from the school, nearly at your front door you see a small girl running in the distance with a coat over her head for safety. She’s run in flip flops along a highway and made it over a narrow unlit bridge spanning the Hudson. It boggles the mind. The cops are notified and everyone is relieved–or embarrassed. The Navy kids’ phones are blowing up with chatter and sympathy. Some EMS workers are a little disappointed they didn’t get to do a full-scale search through the fields surrounding the town.

You thought junking the minivan and buying a black SUV would allow you some anonymity, but no. Your name though hardly known for a novel you wrote will live in infamy at the school auditorium.

PS~I actually love my small town life and the people I meet, most of whom would give the shirts off their backs to help in times of trouble. I found the entire run away episode really funny–especially since unlike me my husband is a very private soul. Seeing him in the squad car will be a priceless memory for our family, and once the little girl was found we all laughed a lot. BTW, the policemen were wonderfully supportive, too!

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18 thoughts on “Infamy in a Small Town

  1. Adrienne, so sorry you’ve endured such thoughtless behavior from the folks around you. Small town attitudes exist everywhere, of course – the belittlers, the gossips, the betrayers, the self-righteous, the wrong-headed.
    Wishing you a better week, and your foster daughter, comfort.

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    • I think it may not have come across well, but I found the whole week funny. I have a dark sense of humor though and I definitely enjoy most people wherever I go. Even the gossips don’t bother me that much–it’s kind of fun being infamous–we spent a good amount of time laughing about my husband being in the squad car (he’s a VERY private person). The night will live on at family parties that’s for sure, Sharon. LOL.

      My son wasn’t sitting with us so it was really funny to know that he heard my name across the auditorium. I wish our little girl had shouted BUY ADRIENNE’S BOOK! Haha

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Love the way you share these moments. Makes me remember that we all have our daily challenges/mishaps, and they are just part of life. Brava for fostering. I’ve fostered a lot of animals, but I know it isn’t a fair comparison. But I do understand the random triggers of craziness that you have little to no control over…

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  3. Oh my. You are a trouble maker. 😉 I grew up in a small town and have lived in an even smaller town. Small town life certainly has it’s charms, bit I don’t really mind that I’v now landed now in a bigger place.

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    • We now live way out in the country with only a stoic farm family near by who we buy hay from. They took a while to warm up to us but they’re great.

      I found when I lived in Brooklyn NY that even in a big city you can get the small town feeling if you frequent the same small stores everyday–I had a strong addiction to Italian bread bought at the Syrian vegetable store. The owners took almost as much delight as I did in seeing my son as he grew through toddler-hood. Those are good memories!

      It’s funny, I never consider myself a trouble maker but I always land in trouble. LOL. Where did you grow up?

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      • I grew up in smalltown Cental Illinois, second generation off the farm, not too far from Springfield and smack dab in the middle of the richest corn and soybean soil in the nation. It was a great place to grow up. For better or worse I was always known and had a lot of eyes looking out for me. But I know what you mean. We create our small communities wherever we wind up.

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      • My husband is from Illinois! Near Danville–he’s your stereotypical stoic, quiet Midwestern man. 🙂 We both remember growing up with lots of eyes on us but with a much greater sense of freedom than what’s given to kids today. What’s funny is that crime rates were supposedly worse back then.

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  4. Sounds like you pack a punch, and that small town better watch out! You’ve arrived, and you plan to change things for the better. I hope your foster daughter learned to trust, poor girl. Life isn’t easy for the waifs and lonely kids.

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    • I actually had no plans to change anything–it’s just when my step-daughter described Donkey Basketball my blood boiled 🙂

      When I told our foster daughter that in middle school the cute boy called me “a long-eared, buck-toothed, drippy-looking dog” we bonded. LOL.
      Technically I didn’t have buck teeth.

      Liked by 1 person

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