|Pine Valley, California|
Today was our 15th Pine Valley Days celebration and the 46th year of this small town tradition. There's nothing like a small town festival to bring neighbors together...and to bring former neighbors back, plus a few friends from "down the hill," as we like to refer to the city and suburbs of San Diego.
You see, up here in a town of 1500 souls at, as our license plate frames state, "4000 Feet Above Care," we think differently than the "flatlanders." With the nearest Costco a 45-minute drive and the nearest WalMart half an hour away, we combine our trips "down the hill" and make a day of it. We depend on each other and help each other, whether it's an elderly widow who needs help with her yardwork or providing after school care for elementary and junior high kids.
Our town boasts two social "hubs" where we run across neighbors and friends on a daily basis. The first is the post office. In a town far too small for residential mail delivery, the trip to fetch our mail from our post office boxes is part of our daily routine. Our family is extremely fortunate as our "trip" to the post office is a quick stroll across the meadow; we can see the post office from our front porch, after all. Some stop by the post office on their way out of or into Pine Valley if they've been "down the hill" while others make a purposeful trip to the post office to pick up their mail; either way, we usually see someone we know, whether for a quick wave or a few moments' stop to catch up with each others' lives.
The other hub is the county library branch which is blissfully air-conditioned (and is where I've parked myself to work on my online Fan Fiction class every afternoon). Again, neighbors and friends stop by to pick up or return books and DVDs, to use the computers, for a meeting in the community room, or for one of the many programs available for preschoolers through adults. We never know what might be going on at the library or with whom we might "run into." When I worked there on Wednesday, I met up with a fellow book editor who gave me the scoop on her visit to Comic Con the previous week. (Someday I shall go!!) A henna tattoo artist was there on Thursday, so I took a break from my class work to get two (free!) tattoos, one on my left hand and the other on my right ankle.
We know we're in a small town when the parade announcer is our 80+ year old neighbor to the south, and the neighbor to the east comes over to ask me to type up and proofread the "press release" advertising Pine Valley Days which was written on a yellow legal pad. We also invited friends from the next hamlet over to park in our driveway so that they can walk across the meadow and watch their oldest granddaughter in the parade.
|The Model "T" Club appears in the Pine Valley Days Parade every year....|
It was stinkin' hot this year. The parade started at 9:00 AM, and Elizabeth and I were already dripping with perspiration. Fearing that we would get baked, we crossed the street to sit in one partially-shady spot in front of the port-a-potty (yep, just one of 'em) stationed in front of the veterinarian's office. A kind family offered me a folding chair (since ours are all in the back of the car that's currently at the mechanic), and Elizabeth stood.
Candy was thrown by people on floats, advertising local (as in within a few towns' distance) hairdressers, feed stores, the church (yes, we only have one in town), our winning AYSO soccer team, etc. Model T's are interspersed with Mercedes and Corvette convertibles with the pageant princesses (Miss Mountain Empire is one of my former writing students!) carefully seated so that their tiaras and crowns glint in the sunshine and their formal gowns sparkle. A fleet of John Deere tractors is followed by the mounted Border Patrol. And then comes my favorite...the bagpipes!
The parade continues with an alumni marching band from a "flatlander" high school, more horses, the ubiquitous Shriners in their little parade cars, Chinese dragons twisting and dancing from a martial arts school from Alpine (the medium-sized town (50,000 people) halfway "down the hill"), and then the piece de resistance:the final parade entry is our town fire truck. Living in a place in which wildfires are rampant and extremely dangerous (two people were killed in the recent Potrero Fire in June), we depend on our fire department not only to keep our homes safe but to also be our first stop for emergency care since the nearest hospital is over thirty miles away. We have one paid firefighter in Pine Valley, and the rest of the fire department is staffed entirely by volunteers. It's small town know-thy-neighbor and let's-pitch-in at its very finest.
|Pine Valley Fire Department, County of San Diego|
I have to admit to nearly tearing up a couple of times during this simple parade, watching the little ones collect the hard candy thrown to them by the various groups on the backs of trucks and trailers (as close to a "float" as we get up here), smiling at the clowns' antics, admiring the cars from the 1930's and '40's, waving at those we knew on the "floats," and clapping for our little fire department.
And late this afternoon, it rained--just a wee bit--as it so often does on Pine Valley Days weekend, the final weekend in July.
You see, we almost had to leave this town. I won't get into specifics, but we are waiting for final written confirmation that our loan has been switched over to a new lender (and a scrupulous one this time, thanks be to God!). It's been nine months of suspense, sometimes thinking that we would be forced to relocate out of state and sometimes thinking that all was well only to find that it was not. This week we received two verbal confirmations that our (prayerfully) former loan company has accepted the pay-off from the new lender. Just receiving a new loan is a miracle in itself.
So for now, Pine Valley remains our home, and we are so thankful, even for stinkin' hot days, sitting on the asphalt and watching the parade go by. That's one part of small town life that I shall treasure...always.
Warmly (well, more like hotly),