If you’ve lived in a mountain town for any amount of time, I’m betting you’ve received an unsolicited lecture about something important to mountain living: the weather, the land, the traffic or even how far apart you spaced your fence posts, for instance. Everyone is watching everything—except the words they say to their neighbors and fellow townsfolk. People, Evergreen is about 10,000 humans large and there are two and a half grocery stores—not to mention, our neighboring towns are just as cozy. You are going to see that person again this week. (Speaking of the grocery store, like most adults, I visit one at least once a week, often with a long list and two kids in tow. At this point, ma’am, I have ascertained how to arrange produce in my cart without my wallet being stolen and I am aware that green bananas are not yet ripe.)
When I first took over this column, I was instructed to write about local mountain living, a funny thing to do from my fairly novice perspective. I was doe-eyed over the deer in my backyard and I made jokes about not knowing how much firewood a person ought to store away for the winter. In the name of humor, I played coy, exaggerated what I didn’t know and made it a point to wear ridiculous shoes when I went into town because that city-kid’s-turned-country trope really works for people—especially in the mountains. Plus, there’s a softening effect to naïveté, and it was a safe place from which to comment while making some undercover observations. (Which is to say, you haven’t been here long enough that you are completely camouflaged into the background. I can see you and hear what you are saying about me from two tables over, sir.)
There’s a learning curve anytime you move anywhere, and especially if you’re moving somewhere that depends on actual preparation for actual survival. This is not to suggest that we knew everything when we came to the mountains, but it is my confession that we knew more than I let on. First off, my husband grew up in the actual middle of nowhere. He grew up doing hard labor working for his father who was a general contractor, hunting deer and picking his own food from plants. Not to mention, he’s pretty strapping. The boy can swing an axe, you know? While I grew up in the cushy land of could-be-anywhere-in-America suburbs, Colorado was not unfamiliar to me. And, in the last decade, I learned a lot watching my parents build on acres of land in unincorporated Golden. (So, to be clear, my real biological parents live about 30 minutes from us.)
As an oldest child, I was always very eager to please authority figures and in adulthood, I am working through what it means to constantly need approval from everyone. I kept waiting for that magical moment where I cross some line and I am a grownup. In last month’s issue, I even revealed my age, hoping with vanity that maybe locals just mistake me for being younger than I am. No matter the age, there is always someone older than you, and perhaps it’s just a calling of age to be constantly passing down wisdom. (At some point, however, we should clarify what’s actually wisdom and what is opinionated, nonsensical prattle, and I should also point out to everyone, but especially to the women who refuse to speak to me over nothing, that age and maturity do not always go hand-in-hand.)
Maybe all of this is just a repressed adolescent rebellion, and I wanted a place to shout, “Leave me alone! I can do it myself!” Except that’s not really true. I am a community-minded person and hold dear those whom I can call on in a pinch—or just to have over to share a Sunday dinner.
The truth is, I buy my bananas very green because my daughter loves to eat them the day before they ripen.
It’s very hard to have a conversation with someone when you can hear you’re the topic of someone else’s.
My parents are dependable and trusted figures in my life—who know how to create and observe boundaries with their children whom they already raised.
And just being of a certain age doesn’t give you the freedom to stop learning lessons and behave however you like.
What I’m trying to say is that sometimes it feels like I have little parents everywhere. It’s a lot of pressure to feel like everything from your parenting and schooling choices to how you trim your trees is not only under observation, but available for comment. Is this a product of our small-town environment? Or is it a further demonstration of our own confidence in our rightness? As children, whether we can admit it or not, we want the freedom to fail. That’s how we learn, how we find ourselves… how we become. Let me back into this for the adults: as we age, we want this same privilege. We want the right to be wrong. Except, turn it around: sometimes we should grant others the opportunity to be right instead.