I have struggled this week to figure out what to write for my column without making it a repeat of last week’s submission. I was in the process of filing away and/or shredding some old paperwork this morning when I came across an essay I wrote in October 2012 when the fate of the Lorane Elementary School was hanging in the balance. It is titled “Respecting the Past; Accepting the Present; Looking to the Future.” I never used it in my column, but I thought that it still pertains today and I’d like to share an excerpted version of it with you.
Although no one has ever told me directly that I need to quit living in the past, I’m sure that the thought has occurred to some… especially with the recent issues that we, in Lorane, are facing regarding the closing of our school. Much of the emotional turmoil that has bubbled up around that reality comes from the fond memories that the school has evoked in those of us whose lives have intertwined with our small rural community, however briefly. The past has impacted our lives in ways that those from other, more urban, communities can’t fathom.
In the past, when life revolved around home and a single bread-winner, we knew our neighbors and shared our lives with them. Social activities were centered in the church, the Grange, the Odd Fellows and Rebekahs… but especially in the school. There were potlucks and dances and smelt feeds and 4th of July celebrations and baseball games. We had Christmas programs in our school where we watched our children perform and we would all join them in singing Christmas carols. Even as recently as a few years ago, large funerals have been held in the gymnasium because no other venue in the community would hold the hundreds who gathered to pay their respects. Our neighbors were many times our best friends and, we generally respected each others’ differing political views and could good-naturedly discuss them without fear of making them an enemy.
In the 1960s, we mothers usually went to town once a week to buy groceries and we frequently scheduled doctor’s appointments on the same day. Lunch at a hamburger stand with the kids on that one day was a big event. When we were lucky enough to lunch with another adult, we actually talked and listened to each other. Unlike today, conversation did not have to be woven around phone calls or while the other person was reading her text messages or playing a game on her phone.
Kids spent their summers building forts and taking hikes in the woods, bucking hay, gardening and playing outside in the sunshine and fresh air all day long. Usually, if they didn’t, they found themselves cleaning their rooms or practicing the piano instead. During the school year, after school and on weekends, they raised livestock or learned to sew or cook in 4-H clubs. Some older boys helped their dads in the woods, learning not only to cut timber, but to build a strong work ethic, as well… and there were always daily chores in addition to homework.
No, it was not an idyllic life. Money was usually tight. Kids usually wore hand-sewn “hand-me-downs” from older siblings or cousins. There were no designer shoes or clothing that separated the “haves” from the “have-nots,” but respect was taught. Usually it was done with love, but, like today, for some, it was taught with a hard hand.
Yes, it is easy to live in the past, but even though I am now a septuagenarian, I am still able to look to the future as well as live and function in the present… I am a realist. Life, as I described it above, no longer exists in Lorane and I realize that we will never get it back. Modern technology is here to stay… Designer clothes, computers and X-boxes, cell phones and texting have taken over our lives so completely that there is no turning back… Only by understanding and respecting the successes and failures of our past, can we move confidently into the future knowing that we have done everything possible to control our own destiny.
Today, in 2018, I see glimmers of Lorane’s past emerging. There is once again a strong feeling of “community.” Young and old alike are working together to make “community” happen in so many ways.
It makes my heart smile.