Monday, April 27, 2009

I Am But a Stranger Here

So it's been four months fulltime here in Castorville, down the road from my hometown of Outer Podunk. (Castorville referring to the fur-bearing rodent for whom this town is actually named -- a source of much mirth among local adolescents.)

When I was growing up we might visit Castorville on perhaps a quarterly basis. My parents had an account at the local bank here -- Dad said that our primary bank, back in Outer Podunk, didn't need to know all our family business -- so on an occasional Friday night, when the lobby was open late, we'd go do our out-of-town banking. We'd always stop at the local dime store, an establishment whose hodge-podge of tantalizing fire-sale/fallen-off-the-truck/remaindered merchandise made our venerable 5-and-10-cent store back home seem quite modest and boring in comparison. On a very rare occasion we might even get ice cream down at the ice-cream shack across from the high school, or stop at the shabby little grocery store for a local sale.

Castorville was our school's cross-county rival, so of course Castorvillians were considered backward, likely inbred, yokels whose academic credentials were as poor as their prowess in sports.

Who'd have thought that, three decades later, I'd be living here?

I make an excursion perhaps every other day to the post office, just down the street. They've cut their office hours in such a draconian way that picking up box mail is difficult even for those of us in town during the day. But the two clerks are beginning to say hello to me if I stop by the window on the way out. I visit the supermarket -- still shabby and mainly limited to basics, although every once in awhile they surprise us with exotica like portabello mushrooms or frozen quail. About once a week I visit the local farm store for some item of pet care, and to buy eggs from the owner, who raises chickens on the side.

It's feeling more like home. I'm starting to recognize faces of staff and regular shoppers. But it's still...different. People, in general, look different here than they do up in Outer Podunk. And it's interesting, this difference. Because I've certainly lived in other cities away from home. But there's a certain familiarity curve that I would achieve in a very short time in those other cities that I don't feel here.

Last night we took a trip to the local cemetery, next to the big lake in town, to let Gertie run. Walking among the gravestones, it struck me that so many of the surnames were unfamiliar to me -- unlike the cemeteries of greater Outer Podunk, where I -- much to the amusement and occasional bemusement of my partner -- can confidently point out city fathers and businesspeople of yore, my parents' old childhood neighbors and classmates who died young.

I wonder if this is because, while this is our home and we're planning on investing some years here until our mortgage is paid in full , we don't feel that this is going to be our final stop in the world; that in the words of the Catie Curtis song, we're actually "only passing through."

No comments: