You know you live in a small town when the headline news is about the hedgehog stolen from the Carnegie Library. You know you live in a small town when the dinner table talk is about the hedgehog stolen from the Carnegie Library. And you know you live in a small town when everyone at the breakfast table cheers because the hedgehog has been returned.

This is my small town, and I could not live anywhere else. Writer Scott Russell Sanders says to find the center of your life and to live in it. Some folks know they were destined for the beach or the mountains or the country or large cities. These are all fine places to live, and it is always important to listen to your own heart when choosing. I have chosen this small town to be the center of my own universe.

You know you live in a small town when the Fourth of July comes, and you are in a parade, and you wave to folks you know throughout the barricaded streets. I had my own joys this year for the Fourth of July. My 1917 character was built with loving care and with thanks to June Julian for giving me artistic license and trust in the character. Bernie Sherman made my dress and donated it to me as her way of saying happy birthday to Miss Columbia. On the night of the Americana show (thank you, Karen Shelton!), my hairdresser, Mary Ramsey, met me at Finishing Touch before the show to do the hairstyle that was fitting for Miss Columbia and for my character. She also left her family on a day the shop was closed to help with my character without giving me a bill.

This month, from full moon to full moon, I have shared this town with my Phoenix family (except for the week at the beach). The children and I have checked out books at the library, picked raspberries out at Walters Berry Farm, caught fireflies, built campfires … well, there isn’t room or time to share all the stories. Holly and Brianna even rode the firetruck in the parade.

There have been just as many stories with the grown-ups. Most of the time we have lingered at the dinner table telling stories, holding babies, laughing at our corny jokes. Every once in a while I have pulled back to listen and watch all of them around my table, the table where I have put in all the leaves so we can all fit.

There were nights that were midnight black glowing with thousands of fireflies. Some fireflies made their way into the house by way of open door; others by way of children collecting them and using their light to put them asleep. On those nights adults crept quietly into sleeping rooms to rescue the fireflies.

Or walking home after the magnificent showing of the fireworks … walking through streets filled with children twirling sparklers and the occasional firecracker on quiet lawns.

After each event I looked at my son and his wife and asked, “Is this enough to make you want to live here with me?”

Folks often say to me, “You are so lucky to live in this small town.” I always have to laugh … not luck, pure choice … pure choice.

The thing is, Garrison Keillor wrote eloquently about Lake Wobegone. I held on to every word of his stories. Yet we are real. The shopkeepers. The farmers. The factory workers. The neighbors. The writers. We are colorful and funny and sad when our children move away to Phoenix or St. Pete or Long Beach.

You know you live in a small town where everyone knows your name and just about everything about you and it is OK.

My month of family has ended … from full moon to full moon. It was a magical month of stories and love. It was a month to show off a town dressed up for the Fourth of July.

I sigh and look around my old house. The sound of babies and children have filled each nook and corner. It will be days before I find each toy and put everything back the way it was before. Before.

I will wipe away the tears, and begin again. The laundry will get done. One by one the rooms will be how they were before. Before.

But my town is still here, and the hedgehog is back home sleeping. Yes, once upon a time in my small town.

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