A note from “Out There”

It’s one of the many curses that come with aging, melancholy that is.

That slight aching for less stressful days and hopeful dreams. A time of silliness and bravado. But not everyone shares these moments. No, we are a lucky few for one simple reason, our hometown.

While I haven’t been back to Princeton for nearly 40 years, I would bet a month’s pay that there are some things that have not changed. I’m guessing that teenagers still congregate at Dick Clarks after school (or someplace similar). I’m guessing that Friday nights are spent at the football or basketball games where they still yell “we’ve got spirit” and celebrate each victory as if it were their own.

And I bet they still walk the town square on a snowy night, feeling a sense of the holidays as Santa’s shack plays out the Christmas standards on cheap speakers. And every summer kids still wake to the morning haze and immediately head out on their bicycles to wreak terror upon the neighborhood.

Without a doubt, the grownups still gossip about the neighbors, brag about the kids, and pray that they have taught them well. The streets still have potholes, some folks just will not keep their yard mowed and there’s talk of a new store moving in on the square.

All of this, and so much more, will always be true of my hometown. Not because of a policy or the new statutes enacted. Not because of the influence of the local churches or the PTA. It will always be true because of what rests within my memories, and the memories of each citizen.

We all share a common experience. We all grew up in a Mellencamp song. Whether it’s the 70s or 2020, life in a small town is the greatest blessing one can receive. Out here, in the vast wasteland that is modern America, these ideas are locked away or torn down like statues. Out here, dreams are replaced by politics.

Lately my heart aches at all the anger and despair and I ask why? Why is there such a lack of common decency and self-respect? The answer is always the same, most people did not grow up in Princeton.

In all my travels, it is Princeton that has given me comfort. It has been Princeton that has given me courage and confidence. It has been Princeton that set my course and cloaked me in the belief that this old world is not so bad. Princeton is my foundation.

So, I say to my hometown, thank you. Not a “thank you” to the reality of Princeton, its people, or its leaders. I say “Thank You” to the idea of Princeton and all the small towns like her. So, from all of us I beg you to remain the last bastions for youthful dreams, and the idea of community.

We all owe you our gratitude.

Cletus Ford

Davenport, Florida

 

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