“A fellow of mediocre talent will remain a mediocrity, whether he travels or not; but one of superior talent (which without impiety I cannot deny that I possess) will go to seed if he always remains in the same place.” Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Main Street, Pitman (Jesse Bair/South Jersey Times)
I couldn’t wait to leave my little town. Pitman, NJ. Where everyone knew your name, your business (and your parents’), where you lived, how you lived, and who your best friends were, or were not.
By my junior year in high school, I began collecting college brochures from the guidance counselor’s office: North Carolina, Vermont, Florida, even Ohio sounded romantic and far away from southern New Jersey.But my parents encouraged me to look at colleges less than five hours away. So I shortened the list to New York, Pennsylvania, Northern New Jersey (a completely different state from Southern NJ), and Virginia.
I left home for college at 18 and never looked back, so happy to be far from the claustrophobic closeness of the Wilsons and the Robbins, the Stephens and the Jones, the Murphys and the Johnsons.
Strangers! I wanted to find strangers in a strange land.
Forty years later, I smile at how far I’ve come.
Main Street, Tiburon
I live, purposely, in a small town where everyone knows your name. My heart leaps when I enter the post office and run into John, a colleague and one of my writing students, and then Shirley, wife of a Board member from work.
After acquiring my stamps from Keith, our friendly postal clerk, I run across the street to the grocery store and wave to Dave, our one-time realtor, while listening to Phil, head of the seafood department, explain the merits of Pacific Snapper over Alaskan Cod.
I blush at the checkout counter when Derek, our accountant, points out the fresh cupcakes in my basket, and then, when racing out the door, I pet Molly, our former neighbor’s 10-year-old lab,
On my way to get gas, I note the three traffic lights in our small town while passing the elementary school that my 30-something children attended oh so many years ago. Oh, look at the lupine bush by the playground that I’ve watched grow up from a tiny sapling when it was planted along the Bay years ago.
Ah yes, I’ve come so far from the mediocrity of living in my small childhood town.
I’ve grown up to learn that the “ordinariness” that sometimes signals mediocrity can actually be another word for comfort, friendship, security, and love.
Mozart – perhaps you got it all wrong.