Small town USA is precious and loaded with memories. I am with my classmate during a summer class reunion. We’re reminiscing and I ask if she remembers Mr. Novotny. She does.
Mr. Novotny worked at the creamery where my own family brought tall cans filled with rich cream. It was a bonus we got from having a dozen or so milk cows.
The creamery was located on a downward hill at the edge of town, heading north toward the football field. Mr. Novotny was kind, and the creamery cool, making it just about the best place in the world to be on one of those July days where the street became mirage-like, with wavy, untouchable water in the distance.
Now, on a future day we could never have imagined as youngsters, my classmate and I made our way toward Lidgerwood Public School–a mere three blocks of slightly worn streets and houses from the small town’s main drag. We toured the school and discovered some things we thought were a very bad idea: painting completely over the tops of the classroom windows to keep the heat out, and removing the typewriters. The kids these days, she said, should have one in there so they know what a typewriter is.
We headed into the Lidgerwood Museum, immediately to the north of the school, and it’s adjacent building–a little school house recently donated to the Museum, which also was a part of my friend’s heritage. They’d had family gatherings and dances there, and her relation who donated the building was a widely-known patron of the arts in our small town USA. It was set-up as a classroom.
We were charmed by the entry, for it included an old-fashioned screen door — the kind that had a spring attached to it. Everyone who came in and went out would make an entry, but the screen door would always close as it should–with a slam.
This was valuable to a farm family too. Screens would keep mosquitoes out and allow the air in. We also always knew when someone came in or went out.
As if I’m still on the farm, I remember my Mom calling, “Don’t slam the door!”
She is making supper inside, pots banging, while I head outside to catch a cool breeze, and sit on the cellar way doors. Inside sounds blend with the wind as it rattles the Chinese Elm leaves. My Dad planted that tree when my younger brother was born.
On summer nights, when the air was heavy with humidity, I’d lie awake, watching the leaves and listening for that sound. And when it started, it was as if the ocean was rushing to shore on our farm.
As I lean toward my bedroom window screen, I can smell the rain.