I grew up in a world of strangers, separated from all but a few of our relatives. It was rare for us to go to a major department store or grocery store or theater and see a friend or relative. Oh, we attended a few school events where we might encounter a close neighbor and we knew a few people from church. In some of the smaller towns where we lived for short times, we were more likely to at least be acquainted with someone. But as long as we lived anywhere near Fresno we were pretty much surrounded by strangers. I suppose our frequent moves, nineteen before I was in high school, accounted for some of our isolation. But city lifestyle- living miles from work or school- was also a key factor. And we usually lived just outside of town because we farmed. We rarely had more than two or three neighbors within walking distance.
All that changed when my family returned to Caddo in the middle of my freshman year of high school. And as a result I had to learn a whole new set of social skills. I was suddenly plunged into a world where everybody knew everybody else and every other person was a relative. At first I found that comforting, but it soon became stifling. I had to learn to be much more tactful than I had been in the city. Anyone I talked about had a friend or relative within hearing distance. I had to be more tolerant. Most of the students had been together since kindergarten! Anyone I didn’t like had a friend or relative who did like them, and anyone I liked had an enemy who was ready to question my choices. I found the social structure of school completely baffling. I even felt that I had to behave better- who knew when a friend or relative might report my actions to my parents?
After a few years I returned to the city a changed person. I was a little more trusting, I developed more friendships, and I stayed in touch with many friends and relatives here. Gary and I were involved in many social and church activities and I credit my confidence during those years to the social skills I learned in Caddo.
When we returned to Caddo in 1991 I thought I knew what to expect and I was anxious to resume most of the relationships I had formed during my teens. But I didn’t anticipate some of the more complicated social skills that I would need as an adult in a small, small world where everybody knows everybody else and every other person is a relative! I am thankful that my mother taught me to be tactful and kind and that she was adamantly against gossip.
All this rambling brings me to yesterday when it occurred to me that even though I am a somewhat reclusive person when left to my own devices, I truly love living in an area where I can’t seem to go anywhere without encountering someone I know. I’ve even been shopping in Denison and Sherman several times and encountered Caddo or Calera friends. I like being surrounded by neighbors I know and trust. I like having colleagues who are friends and family members and have ties to other people I know and love. I like having students who are related to my family and friends. I even like the feeling that I need to be a better person because someone might report my actions to my father or other family members! lol
Yes, I live in a small world. And I love it!