Small town living
During my teen years, there was one thing I knew for sure about my adult life: It would not be spent in Montgomery County, Indiana.
During my 40s, one thing of which I am absolutely certain: I love living in Montgomery County, Indiana.
As we’ve worked on the final edits for my book, my editor has been asking me to clarify details. Because I lived the stories I wrote about, sometimes it’s easy to leave out information that someone who doesn’t know me wouldn’t know. I mention that my dad went out to his studio to paint. “Where was the studio?” she wanted to know. “Was it at the house? Somewhere else? Were you allowed to be there while he painted?” I didn’t think to answer these questions because they’re so foundational to my experience. It was right in my back yard.
And some of them are really good questions. But here’s the part I find interesting: She keeps asking me to clarify things that don’t make sense to her if you’re not from a small town. In two different places, I mention running into friends of my mom’s, people who stopped me in the aisle at the grocery store or in a parking lot to tell me how much they miss her. My editor assumed it had to be the same experience that I’ve explained twice. But it’s not. This happens to me a lot. Lots of people in this community knew mom. I know tons of people. The ones I don’t know probably know either my dad or my sister or both. Or perhaps my kids.
Until I started fielding my editor’s questions, I didn’t notice what a blessing this is. It brings me comfort to know that other people out there think of her. That people I just met often know who I am and knew Mom. That nearly everyone knows my dad is Rob O’Dell, the artist. In fact, he’s from a smaller town than the one I live in now. As a joke, friends of his from St. Louis mailed him a letter once, addressed simply “To The Artist, Ladoga, Indiana.” And it got to him right away.
As a teenager who didn’t want everyone to notice the things I might be doing, as a child trying to break free and forge my own way in the world, this felt oppressive. To someone who thrives on different perspectives, on seeking out new answers and not blindly accepting the status quo, this can be challenging at times. To those who long for variety and diversity and acceptance and open minds, it’s sometimes frustrating.
But as an (adult) child who sometimes feels lost, who misses her mom and loves her dad and has finally come to embrace the parts of me that came from both of them, this brings a measure of comfort I can’t begin to express. Sure, there are some things about living here that I might like to change. It’s not perfect. But when I think of this place, I no longer look at the faults. I just feel the arms of this community wrapping around me… and I know that I’m at home.