Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Common Currency

I grew up in a medium-sized city and for as long as I can recall, I yearned for life in a small village where I could really get to know my neighbors. It wasn't until we moved to East Hardwick, Vermont that I realized how much I could learn about our neighbors with very little effort on my part. Within a three month period I had been told the biographies and genealogies of at least two dozen of our fellow residents. In turn, I found myself sharing my story with anyone who asked, even if my story is enough to make make almost anyone's eyes glaze over. Gossip is an unpleasant word, but information is still the common currency here and one of the great pleasures of village life.

In my novel Glory Days, Dr. Gorman has been dead over thirty years, but there is still talk about how he first came to town.

Whatever his reason for leaving the house to his children, he'd left them the biggest, finest house in the whole town. It was the only house with two stories and it was set back on a lot that was big enough to hold three or four houses. Grandpa Gorman's own daddy had won the house in a poker game. He'd never lived in it because he'd been shot on the way home from that same poker game.
     His young wife had moved herself and her son into the house a few hours after she'd buried her husband. There had been some grumbling about it at the time because she'd cut short the funeral lunch as she was so anxious to move into the grand house with its ten rooms, wraparound porch, and indoor privy.
     The grumbling didn't stop when the young widow started putting on what were thought to be airs. Most of the people in town remembered when she'd come to town with her late husband. Neither one of them had been too ready to talk about where they were from. When asked about who their people were, the young couple would come up with one or two names that didn't mean anything to anyone who heard them. Some people in the town suspected they were no-accounts and hadn't been afraid to say just that.
     For a while the grumbling got pretty loud. The Widow Gorman issued invitations, but they were politely, if firmly, refused. She joined the Presbyterian Church and even started singing in the choir. This was a cause concern until Easter morning when she sang 'The Old Rugged Cross' and there was hardly a dry eye in the pews. Most people realized that a woman who could sing like that must be a good Christian and a fine mother. People began to notice what a fine job she was doing with her young son and how nice the yard looked at the big house. The townspeople cane to see that what had appeared to be putting on airs was merely a reflection of the young widow's true nature.
     She was a hard worker and her boy was the best-dressed child in school. She saw to that by sitting up late into the night, carefully sewing his smart yet sturdy clothes. Within a few month, what with the late-night sewing, which she did in front of the window that looked onto the street where people would see her doing it, and singing in the choir, which she did better than anyone could ever remember, she became a respected member of the community.