I live in a historic town.
My whole life, what would qualify to most as relic and novel has just been…well, common. For lack of a better word. Battlegrounds. Old churches, old sprawling plantation houses. Fricking Tara and Bonnie Blue Butler around every corner.
I grew up impressed by things other people considered ordinary.
Things like Target.
Wal-Mart (I still remember when the SuperCenter came to town. It was Black Friday, Valentine’s and Christmas all smashed together in one huge mass of cutoff bluejeans and pickup trucks).
Driving to Tupelo meant chain restaurants, mall shopping.
I never thought twice about it.
But as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized some things.
I’ve realized you can’t go to WalMart and hang out in the gun section drinking coffee and talking sports like my dad used to do every Saturday at Lonnie’s.
You can’t go into McDonald’s for your morning coffee and have it waiting for you like my kids used to do with chocolate milk at KC’s.
You can’t hang out at the DVD rack at Kmart and talk about director trademarks like we did every weekend at TopShelf.
I’ve learned that homegrown businesses are not kitsch and hometown propaganda, they’re legacies. Fathers. Daughters. Brothers. Sons.
Family. Friends. A shared dream, a common goal.
A risk taken – five years ago, fifty years ago – that says they think my hometown is worth investing in and making their own.
It’s taken me a long time to understand that just because something wasn’t mass produced doesn’t mean it’s inferior. Quite the opposite. I know that now. And as I’ve watched dying businesses go and shiny new companies roll into their places, I wonder what legacy we’re leaving behind.
What do we value?
More? Cheaper? Quicker?
Why is it a novel concept to want your money to go somewhere you can see?
I’m not perfect. Sometimes nowhere but WalMart is open, and sometimes McDonald’s is the quickest answer when I don’t feel like thinking.
But I’d like to think that the charm of my town isn’t just in the battlefields and the historic markers. I’d like to think that we as a community are creating a history of our own. And I want to be a part of that.