Stars Hollow Moments

In my years since graduating high school, I have had the opportunity to live in a variety of different small towns.  Having grown up in Chicago suburbia, I don’t know if some of the small-town experiences I’ve had are par for the course for small-town living or if they just seem funny to me due to my background

When Batman and I were living in small-town Montana and I was pregnant with our first child, he ended up getting his CDL and went to work as a truck driver.   Near the end of my pregnancy, there was a wildfire encroaching on our small town — at least for those people who lived farther back in the woods, up near the border of the Bob Marshall Wilderness.  The forest service was great at organizing town meetings — yes, town meetings — about once a week.  While they held the meetings under the guise of letting everyone know how the firefighting efforts were going, I think the real reason for the meetings was to allow locals to come and ask questions instead of having to answer the same questions over and over on the phone.

Now, we lived on a poorly-maintained dirt road.  The garbage man even refused to come down our street, and told me — during my seventh month of pregnancy — that we would have to bring our trash to the side of the highway for him.  Uh, no thanks.  If we were going to have to load it all up, why not take it to the dump for free instead of paying Mr. “I don’t want to drive on your cruddy road”  to do it?  Anyway, all this to say that Batman had to find other places to park his semi-trailer when he was home.  Usually he left it in the parking lot near the seldom-used community center.     It was during one of the fire information meetings that Batman had to go back to work.  He showed up with his truck, and his trailer was boxed in by meeting attendees.

Can you picture it?  Batman enters the log-cabin community center.

“Excuse me.”

Silence falls.  Chatter about possible evacuation or whether the fire fighters think the blaze will cross the highway comes to a grinding halt.  All heads turn towards him.

“Um, I need to get my trailer and go back to work.  There are some vehicles blocking my trailer.”

When I told my mom about this, she said, “Was it like the Stars Hollow town meetings on Gilmore Girls?”

Pretty much.

These days, I find myself in a small mountain community in Southern California.  We do not have forest rangers going door to door posting warnings about wildfires and informational meetings.  When my town was evacuated due to wildfire, there was no personal notification.  Perhaps I’ll tell our evacuation story another day.  However, in true Stars Hollow fashion, we have a troubadour.

Her name is Penny.  She has a coppery head of curls, an infectious smile, and a prosthetic leg.  She hangs out in the walkway outside the post office, giving out cheerful greetings and serenading everyone in town.  You see, everyone here has to get their mail via PO Box, so the post office is a central crossing point for all locals, whether they live in the mobile homes or lake-front mansions.

I don’t know what Penny’s story is or if she is aware that she seems like a character straight out of a television show or movie.  However I can’t help but appreciate her joyous songs and impromptu prayers.  The other day, as she saw me toting my two little munchkins in to get the mail, she exclaimed over their cuteness and energy.  To my surprise, she started praying for God to give me strength!  Everywhere I go with my kids, people ooooh and ahhhhh over them.  “Such big blue eyes!”   “Such blond hair!”  “Wow look at all her energy!  What a handful!”  Yet it’s not until we meet a possibly homeless, possibly playing with a less-than-full-deck woman that someone offers support to me as their mother, acknowledging that no matter how kids are, it is tough being a mom.

What’s more impressive to me, though, is that it seems like everyone likes Penny.  She almost always has someone different sitting and visiting with her on the bench.  In big cities, homeless people are invisible.  I am sure that my town has invisible homeless people too.  But I’ve never seen anyone glance at Penny with scorn or refuse to acknowledge her greetings.  I don’t think I am the only one who appreciates her strong, sure, country-singer-esque voice either.  The Penny phenomena makes me proud to live in this small town.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Danielle blankenship
    Aug 19, 2010 @ 14:39:18

    “She has a coppery head of curls, an infectious smile, and a prosthetic leg.” You Hit the nail on the head with that description. You are so great Erin! Yes we know Penny. We often give her rides in town and she has serenaded us in front of our house. Adam has talked with her for hours. Has she told you her stories of when her ex husband murdered a cop? She is not proud of her hells angels past and she has the most respect for police officers.

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