- Aperture: f/2.8
- Focal Length: 14mm
- ISO: 200
- Shutter: 1/30 sec
- Camera: NIKON D80
For the first 20 miles, I don’t feel anything at all. By mile 21, I’m grinding my teeth hard, and by mile 30 I’m crying. Such are my drives to Thomaston, drenched in pain, steeped in sorrow, grounded in an unholy trinity of anger, loss, and misery.
Broken glass litters the sidewalks in this forgotten place. The only cell reception you get is “Shit-Out-Of-Service.” And so, when I feel lost and abandoned, I flee to this rural outpost — stoplights, one; population, 383. There’s something about being here that says nothing else really matters. You can forget your name, forget your home, forget your dog.
There are only three businesses in town, and two of them are antiques shops. Without fail, I trudge into the first, only to be assaulted by an onslaught of small town gossip. A shopkeeper looks up to tell me that green-stickered items are half off, but I already know this. They always are. As I browse, I listen to greasy-haired women chatter. Some of it’s mean-spirited; some of it’s classically Southern. Today’s topic seems to be funerals.
“You know, he was a good preacher. Wasn’t from ‘round here, but he could tell it like it was, for sure. I remember this one funeral, the guy was layin’ up there dead as he could be and plain as day that preacher said, ‘Well, there ain’t nothin’ that can be done fer him now, cause we all know where he’s a goin,’ so this un’s for the rest of ya.”
From time to time, I fondle a Blue Willow saucer, a nice piece of Spode, a set of milk glass. The requisite antiques. I never buy anything here. I don’t drive 80 miles for pat answers or perfectly proper china.
Truth is, I don’t know why I keep coming here.
On a good day, the door to the “This & That” is open and I wander inside. It’s junky and eclectic, but it smells like a grandmother’s house — all lemon oil and cobwebs. Today’s a good day, and the owner nervously flits here and there, arranging and rearranging the same bric-a-brac before finally throwing up her hands and saying, “I’m just a mess today, breaking everything I touch. Don’t mind me.”
And I don’t. I don’t mind the assortment of dusty Coca-Cola bottles next to the hot pink pony or the crude color by numbers stacked amid Brahms and Abba LPs. I don’t mind the floor to ceiling jumble of tacky mixed with priceless. I don’t mind anything. I let go.
I let my hands wander, touching whatever strikes my fancy. I don’t stop to question. I don’t stop to think. As my fingertips brush once-loved objects, I’m reminded that even the broken were once useful. Even the tarnished may come clean again with a bit of care. Everything in this place is waiting. I’m waiting. Waiting to find my place. Waiting to hear my name.
Gently, reverently, I sort through embroidered towels and pillowcases, delighting when I find a spectacular set of white cotton sheets with a monogrammed pink “C.” As I continue to search, I see the love women poured into their families — delicate lace handkerchiefs, crocheted doilies, threadbare dish towels made of homespun, days of the week neatly sewn in needlepoint.
I was accused of searching for the Norman Rockwell world this week. It’s true. I am. The world was a better place then. And somehow, by coming to this place, I find a piece of that world to take home for myself. It comforts me somehow. And when I drive home, my cheeks are dry.
Music: Don’t Wanna Think About You by Simple Plan (lyrics)