There’s something somewhat magical about small towns.
Their slow pace, the quirks they shamelessly own, and the inconvenient lifestyle they so willingly live… and love.
Inconvenience to most seems to ruin a whole day…. inconvenience to the small town is just another opportunity to “visit” and see that friend of yours you haven’t checked on in a while.
It may look like taking care of cows or that old tractor that they thought might make it a few more weeks.
It may look like only a few crops coming in and waiting on the rest to produce something spectacular.
It may look like canning your own vegetables.
The ones that you grew.
That you canned.
That you eat.
I find myself mesmerized by the kindness and simplicity of it all.
I tend to fill up with pride that this lifestyle is a part of my roots, that I get to come and visit and taste it when the air in my hometown seems too thick and I need to sit and visit and enjoy that inconvenient way of living and learning.
It’s a place where I can piddle.
Where I can ask a question and someone takes a minute to answer, because inconvenience is a way of life.
It’s where Mrs. Betty lives just up the road from my grandmother’s house and was more than happy to share her afternoon with me.
Kind, smart, the most hard working woman I may have ever encountered, and a canning PRO.
A few months back she gave my Daddy a few jars of her homemade pickles and vegetable soup.
The pickles took less than 24 hours to disappear.
We devoured them.
Just typing about them makes my mouth water.
They were the BEST pickles I’ve ever eaten… and I have eaten a lot of pickles in my life.
My mama heated up that vegetable soup a few nights later.
I put a spoonful of it in my mouth and said “It tastes like Joppa.”
I wasn’t kidding.
My Daddy smiled and said “It’s because its fresh veggies from a garden. It is the real deal.”
and it was.
I just had to know how she did it.
So I gave Mrs. Betty a call to her home phone (a shaded pink phone with a spiraled chord and gray plastic punch numbers, just a step above a dial up), and scheduled a date to come visit, a date to learn.
I just HAD to know her recipes and tricks, but I NEVER imagined what I would learn.
My car door slammed and I heard the screen door of Mrs. Betty’s house (one protected by angels) squeak open and the sound of her voice hollering out my name.
She smiled and waved me towards the front gate of her front porch, a porch that seemed to stretch on and on.
We sat, she tutored me in pickle making and took me to her hiding spot filled with packets of her favorite recipe for pickles.
This little venture to her hiding spot took us through her home.
A home covered in pictures, framed and hanging, of posed family photos.
Smiling faces,1980’s hair cuts, and blue jeans.
I stopped and stared at faces that seemed to mirror hers, giving hints that these collages of pictures were of people that were probably her kin and the hanging of them showed her pride in the people that were captured in them.
I pointed and asked, and for an entire hour we traveled, picture by picture through her home as she told me moments, conversations, people, and stories of every single one of them.
Stories of her late husband, who spent his years driving 18 wheeler trucks for Wal Mart.
The man she loved all her years.
I am not sure I have ever someone so proud of their spouse and the work the did. Never ever ever.
It was moving.
She collected red birds in honor of him, as a symbol of the life he lived and the life she has because of him.
There are red birds strategically placed on her mantle and in the flower bed in front of her porch.
She took me out to her garden, the place where she truly comes alive.
A green garden full of tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, squash, zucchini, the list goes on.
She smiled as I stood in awe of what comes so naturally to her and invited me to her shed.
We walked through tall grass, still damp from a week of Alabama showers, and she opened the door to a shed, filled from floor to ceiling with mason jars.
Jars of preserves, vegetables, pickles.
Enough to feed Mrs. Betty …and the community.
Jars that she shared with my family weeks after a tragic loss.
Jars that she shares with my parents when they come up to work every weekend.
Jars that she sees with pride and utters constantly to me that she always has “job security” with.
She filled up boxes FULL of veggies and preserves for me to take with me… but way to heavy for a “little bitty ole thing like you to carry.”
Heavy boxes that she wouldn’t let me lift a finger to carry.
We went inside for some cold water and sat at her round kitchen table while she gave me all of her canning tips.
She slid a pink legal pad across the table to me to write down my husband and brothers in laws birthdays… so she could send them cards.
Because every year, Mrs. Betty sends me a birthday card.
Every. Single. Year.
Years and years of birthday cards, stamped with an american flag stamp and “God Bless You” written just like that on the back.
Mrs. Betty doesn’t buy cans from the local walmart to eat.
She doesn’t shoot a quick text to tell you happy birthday.
She doesn’t just share a small snippet about a picture, but rather the stories that make them so special.
It’s inconvenient living.
Birthday cards, growing her own vegetables, canning them all, and sharing with the community.
Maybe it’s the small town that makes them all live in slower pace, but tasting a few hours of inconvenience left me filled up with a lot more than a jar of dill pickles.
The kind of slow paced life that taught me a lot more than just pickle making.
A life I’m sure a slew of us could all glean from.
How to slow down.
How to remember.
How to tell a story.
How to share a moment.
How to share your life…
not to be seen,
but to give someone else the opportunity to feel seen by you.