Sunday, November 3, 2013

Our Town/Chandler
(Photography by John Calvin)

GRATITUDE: A crone feels gratitude. I’ve always been quick to list my many blessings.
However, for some reason lately I’ve begun to feel intense gratitude. Really feeling the gratitude has made a huge difference in my outlook. Sometimes while I am out on my walk, I lift my arms and say, “Eternal Spirit, Mother, Father, God, Thank you.” Then I call out those things that fill my soul with thanksgiving. I mostly do this when there is no one about to hear, but if I am overheard, it won’t matter. It is hard to embarrass a crone.

In an earlier post I talked about how much I’ve been influenced by Our Town, a play by Thornton Wilder. However, it is not the literary master piece for which I am grateful today. Rather it is for Chandler, Oklahoma, my hometown.

I am not the only one who likes living here. Lots of people like my son and daughter-in-law, both of whom grew up here and who lived for a few years in other states, have come home to Our Town after a time away.  Yes, I love Chandler; however, such was not the case when I first saw the place. In fact, I hated the town with the fury of a fifteen-year-old, dragged away from her comfort zone by a father who decided the family should move!

My class had always been about 20 people, my forever friends. In Chandler, some sixty strangers made up the tenth grade. Even more frightening, those kids came from vastly different backgrounds, some living in little more than hovels while others had fathers who owned banks. Being a reader, I knew, of course, about social class, but I had never seen it in action. With a couple of exceptions, my former friends had fathers who all worked for the same oil company mine did. Our families lived in the same company-owned houses. No one I had known experienced poverty, and no one had any real money.

 For a long time, I stayed on the edge of school life, living for the weekends when I might be allowed to ride the bus to Edmond, where I was picked up by a friend and her parents and driven west, home to Deer Creek. I could not remember ever needing to make a new friend and had no desire to start at fifteen.  Gradually, I began to reach out a bit. Before graduation, I had friends, was in class plays, worked on the yearbook, and served as an officer in two or three organizations. I had nothing against Chandler, but, still, I couldn’t wait to go home to Edmond for college.

 After living a few other places, my late husband and I moved to Chandler temporarily before our first child was born forty years ago. Before long, we had three children, born within four years. I was glad to live near my parents, who were a big help to me during those first years. When the youngest started to school, I went back to teaching.

Now we were entrenched in Chandler. Did I love it? Not really. I was never a joiner, never belonged to any sort of ladies’ group, could not be described as active in any church, was not inclined to enjoy lots of small talk, had no close friends other than the women with whom I taught for seventeen years. I was very happy during those years, and certainly, as my parents grew old and ill, one of their seven children needed to live nearby.  
Corner of 10th and Allison

However, my affection for Chandler became strong only when I left it.  After living as a widow for a few years, I remarried and moved east. I had assured my new husband I wouldn’t miss Chandler, especially since most of my close friends from teaching had relocated too.

Tulsa is a lovely city, but it wasn’t for me. After five years, we bought a house in Chandler. I could hardly wait to get here. Why do I love Our Town? As Elizabeth Barrett Browning said, “Let me count the ways.”  I have never been lost in Chandler, a big plus after wandering in Tulsa. I care a lot more about the people than I thought I did. I missed seeing familiar faces on the streets and in the stores.  I missed the feeling that if I had a real emergency, I could grab a phone book and quickly contact any of at least two hundred people who would come and help me. I missed knowing a pharmacist, like the one who came from around the counter to tell me he and his wife would pray for us when I, red-eyed, picked up the first prescription for Paul’s brain tumor. I missed the ladies in the Mane Event Beauty Salon, missed not needing an I. D. to cash a check.

I missed the history visible in our old buildings, the brick streets, and the historic homes. I also missed my personal history, the town where my three children had grown up, realizing  there were people on the streets, who would help them if in they were in need and who would also report on them should they be involved in the wrong activities.

I missed being able to go on my walks without constantly looking over my shoulder. I missed living in a town where I can drive until I am really old. Besides, by that time, my grandson Isaac will likely have exchanged his dinosaur fascination for car fascination, so he can chauffeur me to the grocery store.

Are there bad things about living in Chandler? I know there are, but I’ve forgotten how to list them.   Today on my walk, I met a couple from England, who were taking pictures of Our Town. When I was in high school, the idea that anyone from Europe would want to photograph Chandler would have amazed me. Now I understand. From time to time, I am going to write about Our Town and some of the fascinating people who live here.

Why don’t you buy the house pictured below? The yellow sign says “For Sale.” We would be neighbors. You could rent the little business location also pictured below and put in some unique shop, just across from the restored filling station seen reflected in the window.



  1. I can completely relate to this. My dad and younger brother recently moved back to Chandler after my mom passed away last year and are doing really well. While maybe not quite ready to move back (still young and single at 28 and I still have more adventures for me here in Seoul, Korea) I'm thoroughly excited about coming back to see my brother graduate from CHS in May. And I could see myself going back years from now. ^_^ But I didn't start to miss it until my family moved away when I was in college. And even more so now that I've been living in Seoul for 6 years. Definitely miss the clean air and seeing familiar faces.

    - Emily Kalka (a former student)

  2. This was a wonderful post, Anna. I too love Chandler, even though I've only been there a few days at a time when I felt like I'd gone home. Your musings make me homesick for my little town in Kansas--much smaller than the metropolis of Chandler.

  3. Ann, your evocative post has made me reminisce about my hometown in Jay, Oklahoma but has also reinforced my love for my new hometown here in Bartlesville. I was just downtown taking photos of 'my town' because I have come to realize things change so much due to disasters, new development and life, that I want to save the memories for my children to share with their children. I realized the importance of preserving precious memories when our Mays Brothers burnt down a few years ago. It was a unique store which had been in our town for... forever. It was unique and on the corner. Time changes everything. We never know who will read our words and contemplate photos we have taken after we are gone, just as I now look at the historical books about Bartlesville. Thank you for sharing this.


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