I just returned from a trip to visit family in Laporte, Indiana. Visiting Indiana for us means getting a taste of small town life. We soak up the beauty of older homes on criss-cross streets, and of Main Streets that have old fashioned architectural detail and personality.
With the exception of our peculiar devotion to Dairy Queen (the closest one back home is at Arundel Mills Mall) all the restaurants we visited were individually owned. We noodled around shops in the tiny town of Chesterton, some beautiful, some off-beat, some retro-funky. We visited a butcher's shop which made its own beef jerky and sold actual bones for your dog to chew on.
Margo got to help work on a float for the Laporte July 4th parade, walk in the sand along Lake Michigan, ride in the middle of the front seat of a car with bench seats, and watch as I struggled to remember how to drive a car with the shifting mechanism sticking out of the steering column. (Hint: it was hilarious.)
Laporte has five small lakes. On Wednesday my sister and brother in law took us to the weekly band concert on Clear Lake. There's a nice, solidly built old band shell set into a landscaped bowl in a hill-side. Park benches dot the area facing the stage, and on the higher ground above the performance area are picnic tables and play equipment. Some folks sat on the benches, some brought their own folding chairs. Children danced, ran about, or played on the playground.
We sat enjoying the Laporte City Band and took in the view of the lake behind them as fog rolled in. The temperature had been dropping throughout the day. Some older folks had brought blankets along. A mom and dad team popped popcorn which was sold to help support the concerts. Every so often the mom and her son came around to each group of chairs to offer both bags of popcorn and handmade cake pops for purchase.
I felt love. Love for the music of small town summers, for the band, for the people who came out to be a part of it. Love for old friends who waved at each other across the park, kids who ran round in circles and young couples who held hands. Love for the good-natured mom and her son who took his job carrying bags of popcorn so seriously as they visited every seat.
You know what I didn't feel? I didn't feel anxiety or apprehension. I didn't feel judged. I didn't see angry, fearful people talking behind their hands or complaining about the present-day state of affairs. How refreshing it was to be in a group of people who all appeared to be enjoying themselves.
In short, I wasn't in Columbia.
Now, it is true that, with the exception of my own family, I didn't know anyone there at all. So I don't know if anyone there was cranky, judgemental, or dissatisfied. And every community assuredly has some of each. But what a relief it was to be with people at a civic event and feel no weight. No baggage.
It made me realize how heavy a weight we are carrying in Columbia, Maryland. People who want to participate in the present and future of our community are derided as "complaining thirty-somethings" merely because they are taking a stand for something rather than railing against it.
Mark Twain said, "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime."
I'm glad I got the chance to spend some time outside The Bubble. And I'm also glad to be home. But I sure have plenty to think about.