Old friends have relocated and new folks moved in. Buildings have crumbled, either by progress or hurricanes and new structures seem to pop up overnight. I miss the cow pastures and small fishing shacks along the bay. There are 2 new Publix stores under construction, one in a pretty cotton field and another on a once wooded lot.
Small town Alabama isn’t so small anymore.
There’s a mixture of excitement and apprehension creeping through town and I was feeling a bit uneasy because I don’t usually like change.
But then, my mother and I attended a Sunday afternoon matinee of The Nutcracker, and the world suddenly looked familiar.
A friend from church took our tickets and a smiling teen from the coffee shop handed us our programs.
Children dressed in beautiful costumes danced across the stage — the same stage where my son had his “walk out” for senior prom and where I’ve watched plays, Fannie Flagg, and cantankerous political forums.
The graceful Snow Queen was a small girl holding her father’s hand when I first met her at the Arts and Crafts festival, was it three years ago? No, it had to be 10, maybe more? She had been shy with a sweet smile.
A few of the tiny mice scampering across the stage were in Vacation Bible School with me this past summer and one of the Chinese Tea dancers sang Christmas carols next to me that very morning. It all started to feel very familiar. Like family.
At intermission, my Mother and I enjoyed homemade cookies in cellophane bags tied with curled ribbons from the concession table staffed by the dancing soldier’s parents. I introduced my mom to friends. A few were neighbors, some I’d known from shops downtown and one worked in my Doctor's office.
As a huge fan of the ballerina who portrayed Clara, I saved my largest round of applause for her. I know and love four generations of her family, and this talented teen also feeds my dog when I’m out of town.
Bayshore Ballet Academy presented a beautiful and technically difficult production, but to me, the best part was the celebration of community. Changes are inevitable, but the spirit of home will always remain the same.
Sometimes it takes an afternoon at the ballet to figure that out.
And as we were leaving, I heard someone call my name, and turned to see “Clara,” who ran to give me a hug.
Perhaps this small town hasn’t changed much at all.
Merry Christmas to all of you in large and small towns everywhere.