Small Town Cure

The Next Family

By: Tanya Ward Goodman

In the last few weeks, I have felt like my nerves were pushing to the surface of my skin, shooting up quick as bean plants breaking the soil. When I closed my eyes, I could imagine these tender sprouts grazed by the world around me. Sounds have been louder, sensations more intense. I forget what I’m saying mid-sentence and things — my keys, my mail, the dog’s leash – go missing. My children (hearts of my heart) seem rough and shrill, the sound of a gardener’s mower or the roar of a garbage truck are deafening.

But today things are different. The volume in my world has been turned down to a reasonable level.

No, I am not under the bed with a pillow over my head.

I’ve just returned from a visit to the town of Camas, Washington. Just a short hop from Portland, Camas is a paper town (the mill is pretty much right where you’re looking whenever you look.) Camas has a tiny main street boasting a historic hotel, a handful of restaurants and shops and a yoga studio.

It was a sort of family reunion. We came from New Mexico, Wisconsin, California and Arizona to celebrate a high school graduate. This tall, rangy kid with the towhead and the big smile holds some pretty solid real estate in all of our hearts. While he was busy with cap and gown wearing and all night laser tag celebrations, we wandered the narrow streets of Camas.

Two blocks down, four blocks across, we crisscrossed the streets, in varying combinations. My stepmother and I bought dresses while her mother visited a hair salon a few doors away. I shared a few yoga poses with my stepmother’s partner on a wide spot in the sidewalk. We all walked into the hardware store looking for batteries and met a fat cat named Coaster. We tasted olive oil and shared a piece of rhubarb cake. And eventually, we separated and returned to our own rooms to read and nap before meeting up again to take another ramble around town.

Very little of my weekend was spent in a car. I watched no television and read no newspapers. I caught up with my New Yorker subscription and finished a novel. I took a nap. I took two really long showers. I had a series of long conversations.

I felt present and sturdy and calm.

With the roar of my world down to a bare hum, I felt like I was really listening — that I could really listen.

When I arrived home, my son catapulted his body toward mine and instead of flinching; I stood strong to receive and return his embrace.

My challenge is to create the rhythms of this small town weekend in my very big city everyday. As we head into summer, I hope to keep this slow pace and share it with my children and my husband. I know there are things to get done, but there is plenty of time.

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