By Rebecca A. Spears
When you know people all your life you try to understand how it is for them. What you can’t understand you just accept. —Kent Haruf, The Tie that Binds
I’ve lived most of my life in cities with a population of a million or more, but once or twice I’ve lived in smaller communities of 25,000 or so, where I might run into people more than once. In big cities one person can’t know even a fraction of the inhabitants. So, most city-dwellers cultivate communities with family, friends, colleagues, and other fellow travelers.
How is this so different from life in small towns? In a city like Houston, I don’t have to just accept the people around me. If a relationship with a friend doesn’t suit me, I can move on to other friendships. If I suddenly stop writing and decide to desert my writing group, I might associate more with ice sculptors or entomologists or long-distance runners. Large communities allow people to be more selfish, defining and always seeking their own desires.
In the late Kent Haruf’s novel Plainsong, abandonment and acceptance are always in play. Victoria Roubideaux, a pregnant teen, suddenly finds herself homeless after her mother locks her out of the house. Maggie Jones, a teacher at her high school, takes her in and helps her. Through Maggie, Victoria eventually realizes that there is a place in the community for her, that people in it will love her like family. To get her to see the reality of her situation, Maggie speaks kindly but directly: “Honey…. Listen to me. You’re here now. This is where you are.” [Read more...]