Small Town, USA

Ahhh.  That’s the sound of my happy tummy, filled with good ol’ hometown diner food, an everything omelette, hashbrowns and english muffin, to be exact.  And coffee too, you can’t go to a diner and not order coffee; that’s gotta be some sacred rule handed down through the ages.   Boy, oh boy, was it good!  I finally got around to trying out a place I have driven by for literally 31 years, and I’m glad I did – they are closing their doors for good on Monday.  And what a shame too, it’s a very cute, super homey place where you get your own silverware, condiments, coffee and pick up your food when it’s ready.  I chatted with the owner and cook, Bruce, about life, got acquainted with some older gentlemen that came in for lunch and generally had a great time taking in small town life.


I think I’m going to have to stop back in for lunch this weekend; I hear the weekends are quite an experience.

That diner and all that it holds epitomizes small town life to me, both as an outside observer and one that grew up in it.  You work hard, sometimes live hard (cause hell, you’ve earned it) and enjoy life.  You know your neighbors, you meet your friends at the bar for a beer (both of those words are to be said with very hard “R’s”) after work, you’re in bed early that night because you have another full day ahead the next day.  I find myself listening to country whenever I come home, actually when I hit the middle of Pennsylvania, because it just fits.  These songs paint the pictures of my real life Americans here in Penn Yan and the Finger Lakes.  And I love it.

I’m going to do a drop today, but before I do that, I have to tell you all about the one I did last week!  By popular vote, I went to the Keuka Comfort Care Home to deliver some fresh baked kindness to the volunteers that aid in the care of the residents there.  Keuka Comfort Care Home is exactly what the name implies – a place that offers free terminal end-of-life care in a comfortable, home-like setting.  It’s set looking over Keuka Lake with a beautiful, peaceful gazebo in the back, a grapevine sculpture off to the side, and quite homey inside.  It’s run entirely of volunteers (save for one person) and I believe the bulk of their expenses are taken care of through donations.


I stopped in last Wednesday to drop off a plate of cookies and explain my long winded but hopefully enlightening story.  I spoke with a volunteer named Mary. who seemed to really get and like my project.  As we were chatting, her husband came in.  Mary explained who i was, what Single Girl Cookies was all about and how it works.  He said, “Oh, you’re from New York City, huh?”  I explained, yes,  live there, but was born and raised in Penn Yan.  His next question is one that is so common and old school (ancient era kind of old school) but still makes me laugh inside because of the way the world works in a small town.  “What’s your last name?”


Think of this like your modern day Game of Thrones: by knowing my last name or house, if you will, they (generally everyone n PY) knows my family, our history, what we stand for, who I am, what I do, where I live, my relation to other people in town, and generally assume my character to be that of a well balanced young lady.  All of this works both ways – if your history has some patchiness, or even a blemish that stood out in the past, you’d better believe that’s what comes to the forefront of people’s minds as well.  That in particular has never been something I had to worry about.  Being raised the daughter of well known parents, I never had the opportunity to make questionable choices.  And believe me, I tried 🙂


I told this gentleman my last name and he immediately came forth with a barrage of information – “Oh, you’re Kyle’s sister?  Are you the one that got burned or the singer?  I know Kyle from the ambulance corps, I heard he’s doing well, just got a promotion.  i stopped in the other day to see him but he wasn’t there.” 🙂  See what I mean?  And I don’t mind it, really.  There are more pros to being known in a small town than cons.  People are hugely supportive and kind and giving, because they know you.  And you know them.  Although, you can never safely honk at someone in your car they way you might as a frustrated driver in the city – it could be your 1st grade teacher you’re honking at.

I had a similar experience when I went to pick up the plate on Friday.  I ended up chatting with another volunteer, Robin, whom I remember from my days in 4-H when I was younger.  And this morning when I went to get my teeth cleaned, my dental hygienist (whom I’ve known for years, I had a crush on her son, one of my friends, in high school) mentioned that she heard about my next drop because she is on the board of KCCH – I had no idea!

Now, think about this:  I find myself acting a bit kinder, being more thoughtful with my words and actions when I’m home because you never know who knows you, or that you’re probably always going to run into someone you know.  And nobody wants to be a jerk in their life, so a lot of us are nicer as too not be perceived as such.  And this is more pre-SGC, but I would find myself not being a great person when I was back in NYC.  I didn’t really know you, guy standing too close to me on the train.  Or you, impatient lady who brushed by me on the street, so I don’t have to be as nice to you.  I can get angry and shoot you nasty looks or call names after you.  But what if we all tried treating our worlds like a small town?  Where you smile at people you know, and those you don’t.  Take that extra moment to listen to someone’s troubles, or chit chat at the marketplace.  Try it for one week and see how you feel.  I guarantee it will brighten your day and lighten your mood.


This afternoon I’m headed to the Penn Yan Area Volunteer Ambulance Corps to brighten their day with some homemade deliciousness.  Keuka Comfort Care Home suggested that I head there because the PYAVAC freely transports many of their residents, giving of their time and resources.  Then I’ll be popping over to the park at 6:30 to sing in the Penn Yan Community Chorus Concert for the last concert in the Concert in the Park series for the summer.  So come on down, say hi, and get to know your neighbor!  Chances are, you already do 😉


Copyright 2013, Renee Heitmann