The most stereotypical thing about small towns is that everyone knows everything about everybody else.
Not really wrong.
I don’t know what it is like to just run in to the grocery store for a jug of milk and come out in less than five minutes. Not at home, anyway. I can do it in State College. Not in Philipsburg.
The milk is in the far corner of the store and, between me and the dairy case, there is a maze of people who want to tell me what they thought about my school board article, to let me know something to run in this column and to just chew over the latest thing that happened to this person or that.
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But I’m not complaining. Those little trips are a great way to stay connected to my community. I don’t have to go to every meeting to find breadcrumbs to follow to a new story. I find out when two high school friends have found their way back to each other after 20 years and other marriages. I see new babies and older kids who just insist on growing older and taller.
Over the past two weeks, I have also found immense comfort.
On the Fourth of July, while our town was celebrating our annual Independence Day spectacular, I lost my husband to a brief, unexpected fight with pneumonia.
Since then, walking through town, through the grocery store, to pick up a pizza, has been walking into the arms of a thousand people who want to tell me that they are grieving with me.
Small towns can be nosy. They can be hard to crack, as we have so many inside jokes and longtime stories that outsiders just don’t know. Sometimes we have to try harder to find opportunities.
But you don’t have to try very hard to find a shoulder to cry on or a hand to hold.