At Two With Nature · Friends · June can't keep a doctor · Los Angeles

TinyTown, revisited

In August of 2007, my then-spouse, Marvin, and I moved from Los Angeles to Wadesboro, North Carolina. We went from a population of 3 million to a population of 3,000. It didn’t occur to me that this might take some adjustment.

But this is what I DO in life. I plow through it, never thinking anything through, then being stunned by the struggle because I didn’t think things through. I wish for you to put this on my tombstone, along with the 40 other things I’ve asked you to put on my tombstone, which at this point is something of a scroll. A stone scroll. That you can somehow pull out to read all the epitaphs I’ve written.

“You wanna visit June’s grave today?”

“Ugh, no. I can’t even deal with unrolling her stone scroll.”

Anyway. So instead of sitting, oh, still, and letting myself be charmed by TinyTown, I immediately commenced to finding ways to leave. This is why, on February 27, 2008, I was driving to Raleigh for a job interview, when I passed a little dog on the side of a busy road.

IMG_2509(I just took this yesterday, and was stunned by just HOW busy that road was. Tallulah was less than 3 months old when I found her, and you guys, she was past that gutter. It gives me chills. She was probably moments from being in that road.)

Screen Shot 2017-12-04 at 4.38.35 PMI never made it to the interview, because as we all know by now, I made the best U-turn of my life and swooped that little puppy up and into my car. My initial plan had been to knock on the trailer doors, there, to say, “Here’s your dog,” but when I saw all the yards weren’t fenced, and that she was so very skinny, and once I saw the sun glint through her gold eyelashes, I instead shut my car door and put her in the passenger seat. And right then I knew, I had myself a Tallulah dog.

I’ve never known something so certainly, and never loved someone so fast. It was her gold eyelashes that did me in. Those gold eyelashes assured her spot as my passenger that day.

100_1312She was the best passenger I ever had, for 8 years.

This week would have been her 10th birthday, and I decided it was time to scatter her ashes all the places she loved. That included her first home, where I found her; the house we had in TinyTown; my yard here; the dog park; and any other places I can think of where she was happy, i.e., anywhere Edsel wasn’t.

(She was never a fan. Don’t tell Edsel. He was nothing BUT a fan of that dog.)

So yesterday I took the day off work to drive back to TinyTown and to where I found her, which by the way is precisely nowhere–it’s not even a town. Tallulah was a small-town girl. Livin’ in a LONELY world. She took the midnight train going an-y-where.

Also on June’s scroll: She burst into bad ’70s music when no one wanted her to.

The problem was, yesterday was our first snowstorm of the year. Go, June! Wait, did you just plow through something without thinking it through? Hunh.

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Checking out the first flakes, which you can’t see, but trust me.

Just as soon as I got out to the car, it started to snow. It was so pretty, and I was all, Oh, it won’t stick.

Oh, June.

IMG_2476.jpgSo, once again, my favorite passenger and I got into the car and headed on down the road a piece.

I took the country roads to take me home, because it’s a really pretty drive, and normally I’d have stopped to take photos for you, but as the grandmother I’m turning into would say, it was pouring the rain. It wasn’t far out of Greensboro that the snow turned to rain, but man, we’re talking rain. Much rain. It rained longer than Queen Elizabeth.

Oh, June. You’re not funny.

IMG_2502IMG_2499Whenever I return to TinyTown, I am charmed by the people and the beautiful old houses and I think, Why the hell did I ever leave TinyTown? I wonder if I’d have gotten divorced if I’d left. I wonder if I’d have ever met Ned. I’d never have had a Steely Dan, or known a single Alex.

But left it I did, which means I missed the news that my friend Lucy died earlier this year. She was a woman I met through the Episcopal church, where I was the best church secretary the world has ever known.

My stepbrother-in-law Bill once told me about a guy he knew who chucked it all to become a mushroom farmer. He wanted a simpler life. Turns out, being a mushroom farmer is really hard, and you have to constantly keep up with the heat and the moisture and the soil and your mushrooms and LIFE WAS NOT SIMPLER.

IMG_2495.jpgThis sums up my experience of going from being a proofreader at an ad agency in Los Angeles to being a church secretary in a town of 3,000. IT WAS THE HARDEST JOB I EVER HAD.

But man, did I love the people there. I saw the church and the steeple, then I opened the door and saw all the people, and they were fabulous.

It’s funny–when we first moved to TinyTown, we had one car, a car Marvin would take to work. So my only entertainment was walking, and right outside our door was the world’s steepest hill, so every day in the August heat, I’d climb that hill. This church, the Episcopal church, was at the very top, and I’d sit on the wall and spit up blood while I caught my breath. I would admire the architecture every day. At night, the steeple would be surrounded by barn swallows, but I didn’t know what they were yet.

I’ve learned a lot of things living in the South: To be, not to seem. What a barn swallow is. To enjoy conversation. A ham biscuit. And that not everyone automatically believes in evolution.

I didn’t know I’d end up working at that church, is my point.

Anyway, when I learned my favorite parishioner Lucy died, I called her husband, Dr. Whit, and we made plans to get together yesterday.

IMG_2480.jpgWhen I pulled up to his house, he ran out for me with an umbrella, and does anyone want to join me in wondering why I left TinyTown? He’d made a cozy fire in the living room, and we had lunch and talked about just everything. That’s the thing about the people there: They all have the gift of gab. They make an afternoon fly by, because they actually know how to have conversations. No one checks a phone, no one dominates the talk. It’s a skill everyone there seems to have.

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The good doctor

IMG_2481.jpgI was stunned to see they still have their mean cat, Dixie, named because she was found out behind a Winn-Dixie 14 years ago. “Has she gotten any nicer?” I asked hopefully. “Can I pet her yet?”

“Oh, no, don’t do that,” Dr. Whit warned. “Don’t ever do that.”

IMG_E2486.JPGOf course, we talked about Lucy, and he even gave me some of her ashes, and I got my nerve up and asked, and YES, she got to be buried in her Tiffany box after all. I really almost cried when I found out. I so wanted her to get her Tiffany box.

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I think we both had a really good afternoon.

After our visit, I stopped at the church and scattered a little Lu around the back door. I used to work every day from 8–12, and she’d be in her crate during that time. If I ever had to return for more pressing church secretary duties, I’d take her back to work with me for the afternoon where Dear People of TinyTown: Occasionally she’d poop in the nave maybe a bit. I am sorry. SHE WAS JUST A PUP. It was just a little puppy poop.

I remember her little excited puppy self clamoring to the back door of the church, trying to get up those big stone steps. And I remember Father Mike very tolerantly saying, “Hello, Tallulah” when he’d see us together in the office. He was the kind of guy who kept dogs for hunting, so you have to hand it to him that he didn’t fire me on the spot.

IMG_2490.jpgI also drove through the bustling downtown that continues to be adorable, then over to my old rental house, which doesn’t look good. They cut down some greenery, somehow. I want to look at old photos to compare the difference, but it looks barer now.

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Depressing.

Nevertheless, since no one was home, I sneaked to the back yard like a common criminal and scattered Lu where I stood with her for countless hours in the cold, holding her leash, saying, Go potty go potty go potty go potty until we’d give up and go inside, where she’d poop on the floor as soon as we got in.

“Lu really prefer to poop in nave.”

Then I popped in on some other friends I made in TinyTown, Jerry and Rachel. They are the very definition of gracious. They served me hot cider and chewy almond cookies on a silver tray. Also on my tombstone: She never had elegant silver trays.

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More elegance in one strand of my elegant hair than June will ever have.
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I concur.

Careful readers will note this is the couple who had me over a few Christmas Eves since I moved to Greensboro. Their house was built in the ’20s, and they are the second people to ever own it. It has built-in cabinets, and one of those fireplaces with the wood columns and the mirror built in over it and OH MY GOD THAT HOUSE Y’ALL.

IMG_2491.jpgI forget how happy the people of TinyTown make me. And when I left their house, Jerry walked me to my car with an umbrella over me.

Hey, why’d I leave TinyTown?

Anyway, the weather was not letting up, and I basically hydroplaned my way to Tallulah’s old homestead. I saw a kid playing in the yard of one of the trailers, and I was tempted to ask, “Did anyone steal a puppy from you when you were just a wee child?” but I did not. Instead, I very casually walked around the grass, scattering Lu out in the driving rain, looking, I’m sure, not remotely berserk in my suede fringe boots and fur-collared retro coat.

IMG_2503.jpgThe closer I got to home, the snowier it got, and while hydroplaning was not relaxing, neither was slipping on the ice. Despite my concrete shoulders, I took time out of sliding on the road to open the gift Jerry and Rachel had given me, a big tin of peanuts, and what better time to delve into a tin of peanuts than when you’re on an icy road, with cars spun out every few miles and ambulances everywhere? It’s a moment that cries out for a peanut break.

Tip for readers: Some tins of peanuts have very sturdy foil tops. These foil tops will SLICE YOUR FINGER TO RIBBONS should you choose to, oh, eat peanuts and drive.

You have no idea how badly I cut my own self. Turns out, bleeding and driving don’t mix. Oh my god, I was Nicole Brown Simpson. I was Sunday Bloody Sunday. I was bloody, Mary.

The peanuts were delicious.

I made it home alive and Dr. Whit even called today to make sure I did.

IMG_2514.jpgIt didn’t even snow that much–although it’s still snowing as we speak. But it’s that kind with the icy top layer, like a creme brûlée. And today I was supposed to go do something exciting that I was gonna tell you about, but now that’s been put off.

But that is probably good, since I have droned on forever about my day in TinyTown, and talk about your gift for gab.

Not as gabby as my tombstone is gonna be, but you know what I mean.

Chattily,

June. Of TinyTown, fmr.

60 thoughts on “TinyTown, revisited

  1. I’ve been meaning to tell you how much it tickles me when you say how busy that road was and then show us a picture of a dirt road. I KNOW you mean the road that would be behind you in that picture but it still tickles me. “Oh, it was such a busy road!” *Cue picture of dirt road with three visible trailers* Heeeee

    Lovely post, June.

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  2. There is little left to say that hasn’t been said with great eloquence. “No wonder the sky cried buckets”. That was lovely Sadie. I would like to experience life in Tiny Town as well. Your life has been rich and varied , June.

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  3. Your other readers are eloquent and fast at comments. I wish the world was more tiny town and less crazy town. Silver trays and gentlemen with umbrellas. Talu in all her favorite places. Beautiful. Thank you June.

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  4. Thank you for taking us to Tinytown. I felt like I was right along with you. In the backseat of course, since Lu called shotgun.
    Lucy was a beautiful bride and so deserved that Tiffany box.
    Where are all of the men with their umbrellas? That should be part of a test to see if they are long term material.

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  5. It snowed and rained on your way to TInyTown, you had friends to keep you dry and safe there. It rained and was slick on the way home, yet you had your peanuts an extension of your friends to keep you comforted on the slick ride to your house. It sounds as if TinyTown is your oasis in a storm (so to speak).
    Feel loved, feel safe, among true friends and good people.
    When some around you don’t cherish you as they should…there are people around you and in the world who WILL and do cherish you. Some folks aren’t happy with themselves so pick on others that are and try to bring them down. Don’t let them bring you down, ignore them, they don’t count.
    The whole world doesn’t suck , just some of it’s inhabitants. Surround yourself with the good people. You do have them in your life and there are others you haven’t met yet.

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  6. June, I’ll echo everyone else since I can’t express my sentiments as eloquently. After our BIG snow in Atlanta on Friday, I was afraid your and Lu’s quest may have been rescheduled. I’m so glad you made it safely to Tiny Town and spent time with friends you love. Once again Lu got to ride in your passenger seat. No wonder the skies cried buckets.

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  7. Are you there God? It’s me, AA. That was me who raised my tablet to the sky and shouted whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy. I didn’t mean anything by it, it’s just that a story ended on a notblog I read and I wasn’t wanting it to end. I’ll try to be less dramatic next time.

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  8. Yes, one one the most splendid and heartwarming reads, June. It was written beautifully and I laughed and also got a bit teary. There was so much to like in this post and I think you have us all wanting to move to TinyTown. Thank you for your beautiful writing. Now, let’s get going on your book.

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  9. Loved this post on your not blog. What a wonderful way to remember Lu who was truly a wonderful dog. I’m so glad for you that you have had a Tiny Town in your life with friends like Lucy and Dr. Whit, Jerry and Rachel. Everyone should be so fortunate to have such a dog, such a place, and such friends in their life at some point.

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  10. I am so happy to hear that your day back to Tiny Town was a success! OF COURSE it snowed. Every quest needs a trial. Your description of Tiny Town is exquisite. How nice to go back and visit! I was thinking about you on Friday, hoping that you were having a good time. It sounds like you did.

    Lovely post , June!

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  11. This reads like a lovely book, that ends way too soon. I was waiting for you to call yourself a stone scroll sister, going on a stone scroll picnic. I guess there was no room for that much silliness amongst all the wonderful people and memories. Thank you for sharing your day.

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  12. I agree that this was a lovely post. I love to hear about the gentility of your friends and be reminded that we could all be a little more caring and compassionate.

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  13. Beautiful, June, “Oh, Marie, it’s just beautiful, really.” This was a very heartfelt day for you and for those you visited. What a sweet day and a sensitive story. Thanks for sharing your day with this beautifully written gem.

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  14. I absolutely love your storytelling. You really do need to write a book, because after posts like these, I am sad that it’s over. I’m sitting here all nostalgic about TinyTown, and I don’t even know where the hell it is! Thanks for taking us along.

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  15. Sorry for the double. Not used to commenting via phone. Just want to add, though– “It rained longer than Queen Elizabeth” — HA!! I’ll be stealing that if it ever rains again in LA.

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  16. Thanks for this exquisite post. Somehow it makes me feel comforted to know that such a gentle, kind, gracious place exists, and you made me feel like I was there with you. I remember reading when you first moved there, and on the day you found Lu, so in a weird kind of way it was all very nostalgic. You can never stop writing, you know. We are all addicted to you and the need to know what happens next.

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  17. Thanks for this exquisite post. Somehow it makes me feel comforted to know that such a gentle, kind, gracious place exists, and you made me feel like I was there with you. I remember reading when you first moved there, and on the day you found Lu, so in a weird kind of way it was all very nostalgic. You can never stop writing, you know. We are all addicted to you and the need to know what happens next.

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  18. Such a lovely way to honor Lu and your life with her.

    I am curious about that addition on tbe left hand side of the rental (next to the carport). Is that the kitchen or laundry room? I commend you for going into the backyard as part of your Quest!

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  19. What a lovely, lovely post today.

    I’m so glad Lucy got her Tiffany box. I actually have a Tiffany box that would have been perfect and I would have been more than happy to send it along had I known a) Lucy and 2) that she died and iii) that she wanted her ashes in a Tiffany box.

    But reading about you taking Tallulah to the places she loved makes me realize that it’s time I let go of a couple of my dogs that are residing on my bookshelves.

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  20. Oh, Tallulah. She deserved so many more years with her June. She really was a beautiful girl.

    I’ve read this post a half dozen times – it gets more lovely with each reading. Did anyone read those Jan Karon books – the Mitford series. Tiny Town reminds me of Mitford. So sweet and delightful.

    Thanks for sharing lovely June.

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    1. Lisa, NTL, after my Mom lost her vision she check out books on tape from the Library for the Blind. Those books were some of her very favorite, she read (listened) to those multiple times.

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  21. If the whole world could be people like your TinyTown good people, what a wonderful world it would be.
    It would also make life a lot easier to live.
    Sounds like a wonderful day for you. Good, good.

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  22. You are beginning to write like a Sourherner conversation- slow, smooth, and utterly charming. I cried thinking of Talu and looking at the pic of you with Lucy’s husband.

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  23. I’m thankful you had a lovely, memory-filled, peaceful day with such gracious people, June. I hope it gives you peace that Talu is at her happy places.

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  24. Oh, Lu. This post made my heart hurt. Tiny Town reminds me of the town I live in, but the people here aren’t as nice. We too got snow yesterday and it was so pretty all stuck to the trees and everything, but it has almost melted away now.
    I’m glad you got to take Lu’s ashes to their final resting places. I hope it brought you a measure of comfort and didn’t upset you too much. It’s amazing how dogs can worm their way into our hearts and totally shatter them when they leave us.

    “It rained longer than Queen Elizabeth.” Bah, good one!

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  25. This was a very lovely post. It warms my heart to hear there’s still gracious people in this world. But why did you and then husband move from LA to TinyTown?

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  26. I want to live in TinyTown! June what happened to the woman in the nursing home, I think she was in a nursing home…? You bought her some new music, didn’t you? Or am I not remembering that correctly?

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  27. Love this post. This picture of Lucy shows her to be even more beautiful than the past photos. It sounded like a lovely trip despite the weather. Lu at rest.

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  28. This post reminds me of “It’s a Wonderful Life”. We so often don’t notice how wonderful and beautiful things are. It’s good to be reminded. I’m glad you had such a good day there.

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  29. June, you have such a gift with words. You let us feel everything. I’m an emotional mess now, teary, happy, sad, envious (of your ability to find and keep these wonderful people in your life).
    This is one for the book, for sure. Carry on, Coot.

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  30. Love this post! It might be my new favorite. What a beautiful day honoring that Tallulah girl of yours. This really might be some of your best writing.

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  31. Beautiful post, June! I am so glad to know that a place like Tiny Town still exists, where the church people are nice, the men are gentle, and priests like puppies. This just made Christmas for me.

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  32. OK hang with me here. I think, yes this is advice, you should marry Dr, Whitt and move back to Tiny Town. You could be his trophy wife. Didn’t you always want to be a trophy wife? Anyway in lieu of that plan I guess you could move to Tiny Town and run a Bed and Bed, that way you don’t have to make breakfast.

    I miss Tiny Town living too. Will be leaving the big city behind soon, but not soon enough.

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  33. Beautiful story full of wonderful memories of Lu and Lucy and the church and Tinytown.

    Seems like all the real gentlemen in the world live there. Well, we have several here where I live too – my ex, bil and Dad are some of them. Where did we go wrong in raising this current generation? I try to make my teenage boys hold doors and treat women well. They treat older women well, but the girls their age are playthings. I think younger girls don’t demand respect like we do, so I guess it’s reciprocal.

    I join everybody else in admitting I was a bit teary, reading this. I’m sure the time you spent there seemed like a whole lifetime ago, doesn’t it! Funny how our lives never turn out how we think they will.

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  34. That Lucy was a beautiful woman. Sometimes I think I am becoming a nicer, more thoughtful person, but then posts like this make me realize I am still far behind what passes for common courtesy in the south. Wow. Nice kind people. Puppy Lu. Who could be mad at a little puppy Lu poop?

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  35. I’m with teary Tee, oohing and ahhing at all those wonderful memories of Lu and Tiny Town.
    What a special day for you, June.
    Heartfelt hilarious post and now one of my favourites.

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  36. Days like this, I wish your notblog was a book I could grab when I need to read something snuggly & warm. Yeah, I can open the notblog, but it’s not the same as searching your shelves for good writing. Beautiful notblog Joon.

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  37. What a lovely day. I cried most of the way through this post. It started with, “she was the best passenger I had for 8 years.” Tiny Town causes me to have town envy.

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  38. OMG he called to make sure you got home safe. I love that. And this post was beyond perfection. Oh Lu. Oh June. Oh Mean Cat. Oh TinyTown. Oh chewy almond cookies. Oh everything. xoxo

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