I drive up to the one stop light intersection as the light turns red. Across the way, an old friend gives the hand signal to call him later.
I nod and continue driving to the town’s main gas station, where I almost always recognize one of the other vehicles.
Upon exiting my own, I see a little kid wave at me. It takes me a moment to realize it’s the younger sibling of a good friend, and I wave back.
The guy on the other side of the filling station asks how my dad is doing, and we joke about his inability to quit working.
When I walk inside, the cashier asks if I’m in for my usual.
I grin and pretend I’ll mix it up this time, then ask if her sick mother is feeling any better.
In walks the same mechanic who’s seen every one of my manly sports cars go running scared into a winter ditch and done his best to keep me on the road.
When a girl walks up behind me, I turn and notice her shirt features the name of my rock band from high school.
She asks if I still play guitar and says she still has our CD buried somewhere.
As I walk back to the car, I see a middle-aged friend and former town police officer in the distance.
My hope is that he’s forgotten about when I locked myself out of my own car three times in the same week and called his cellphone each time.
I make my way to the local football field, where the homecoming game is about to begin. On my way, I see light poles with signs honoring the high school athletes.
A few of them I’ve either baby-sat or coached in some capacity over the years, and I can’t believe they are teenagers now.
After catching up with some friends, I take my place on the sideline to cover the game for the town’s local newspaper.
Despite being a part-time media guy competing with full-time local competition, I’m given a slight edge in the fact I’m a hometown kid.
I know the backgrounds of the players and their families. I know the background of the community, and I know little things that help make the story more interesting to the readers.
The players, coaches and families I work with aren’t just people I work with, they’re my actual friends.
Some I met on the job, others I’ve known for years.
The community aspect of my job was best summed up when one of the coaches, who’s also my insurance guy as well as a close personal friend, texted me half-jokingly saying he found my future wife for me.
After the game, I end the night by joining the friend who waved me down at the beginning of this story for a group bonfire.
We reminisce on old times, talk about where we’re headed next, and jabber about where other friends have ventured off to.
Now, not all of these things happened in the exact same day. They all happened, and many of them almost daily or in succession.
I put them together in one story to help paint a picture of everyday life in a small town, a life so many take for granted.
I grew up a big city kid deep in the heart of Austin, Texas.
The place was paradise, but I always longed for the small town community I had seen depicted in several Hollywood movies.
The idea of being able to walk into any store and see someone you recognize blew me away, as did the idea of being more than just a number in a big crowd or having a community that had your back in good times and bad.
The whole thing seemed foreign to me, and I always longed to experience it.
When my grandpa got sick, my family packed up and moved 1,000 miles to join this Midwest community and help take care of him.
As a 15-year-old, smack dab in the middle of high school, leaving the greatest city in the world wasn’t ideal.
But the idea of experiencing the small town life I’d seen in so many Hollywood films had its intrigue.
And over the years, I’ve seen a number of local kids long to leave this place for the city lights I grew up with.
It’s always a funny sight when they return, having realized what they had all along.
This may not be where I was raised, but it’s where I grew up.
It’s the place I had my first teenage job as a grocery store cashier, and most recently my first postgraduate job as the town’s sports editor.
It’s been an honor getting my start in the place I eventually dubbed “my hometown.”
Whatever my next adventure is, I’m pumped for it.
But I’m pretty sure it won’t compare to enhancing memories for the teens I knew as kids.