Updated: Jun 21, 2019
Some memories from childhood take on more meaning as you go through life. One such memory for me involved spending time with my Granddaddy at his store down in Harnett Country when I was 12 or 13.
Granddaddy’s store was the only gathering place for local farmers within 10 miles. I was there in the summertime and during some holiday breaks. My “jobs” included “drawing” gas, keeping the drink box full, and sweeping the floors.
The old wood frame store had a long homemade counter piled high with snack food and a huge hoop cheese in a wooden case. A drink box and a wood stove occupied the center of the store surrounded by 50-year-old cane bottom chairs Local farmers came in, bought their Pepsi or Co’Colas, a pack of peanuts to go in their drink and a hunk of cheese before taking their favorite chair around the stove or the electric fan. Then they made bets on which bottle came from “furtherest” (at that time the bottles were returnable and the location of the plant that first filled them was imprinted in the glass) and launched into telling stories. While I was never a full-fledged member of the group, I was always welcome to hang around and share in their world.
Family and Tribe
As I remember, the guys seldom talked of crops, politics, trucks or women; they talked about people. Someone would say “when was the last time you saw Tommy?” That prompted a 30-minute negotiation to settle on the right “Tommy”, followed by an hour-long discussion about Tommy, his relatives, children, his wife’s family and where they lived. The next day the conversation would start again when someone would say “Yeah, I saw Connard last week…” The lead-in was fodder for another long discussion about Connard’s people and his brother’s stay in the hospital.
As an adult reflecting on these men, I realized that their time at granddaddy’s store was spent reaffirming who they were and supporting each other as they worked out their individual life plans. As for me, I started my day looking in the bathroom mirror, wondering “who is this guy—is that really me?”
The guys at Granddaddy’s store did not spend a lot of time wondering who they were. Their family, their tribe, their farms, and their place in the community formed their identities. They stayed connected to who they were by keeping up with one another’s lives.
A DIFFERENT APPROACH FOR MEANING AND PURPOSE
Someone who talks to himself in the mirror each morning was bound to grow up to be a therapist, right? And so, I did. My search for identity, consciousness, meaning and purpose continued. I was not able to find all of my answers from family and tribe. My life, like the lives of most post-war baby boomers was really different. Our family was scattered around the country. We did not stay in a community or a farm year after year. In fact, we moved almost every year during that period of my life.
I still drive by the crossroads where my granddaddy ran his store. It’s a very different place today. The old wood framed building and its antique gas pumps have been replaced with a modern convenience store with computerize gas pumps. They don’t need a kid to come out and draw gas.
Farms in that area are now mixed in with subdivisions filled with commuters who leave early and come home late. When I drop in at a store or a McDonalds in that part of the country, I don’t hear people talking about Tommy or Connard. Quite often the chatter is about frustration and resentment with “those people” or politicians. I wonder how the loss of lifestyle and community that provided meaning and purpose for those guys at granddaddy’s store has affected us. Looks like we have more. But, could the rancor and divisiveness that permeates the media and the cross road convenience stores today link back to our loss of identity as members of family and tribe? If so, then we can benefit from tuning in to ourselves, along with our family and tribe for our identity.
The Resonance program helps people find themselves, and thereby find meaning and purpose in a time of rampant change. Visit our website (www.ResonanceNC.com) and join with us in our search.