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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

In Other Words: Enjoying the The Rituals of Our Town

Like the swallows returning to Capistrano or the buzzards to Hinkley, Ohio, students return to Fort Thomas roughly the same time every August - roughly two weeks prior to the beginning of school. Even if I didn’t have a calendar, I would know that the opening of school was near.

For the most part, Fort Thomas takes a nap during the summer. Oh, sure there are the big gatherings for the Independence Day parade and celebration, but then the tide goes out and the town empties out.  Then the tide comes in for the weekly Farmers Market and the monthly Art Around Town events. And then it leaves again for a lake, a camp, a vacation, or whatever.

But there are certain small town rituals that I like and find strangely comforting - like the ringing of the church bells in the morning, the steady stream of cars leaving town along Memorial Parkway in the morning and then returning in the evening, the weekly clanging of trash cans, the sidewalk and front porch conversations, the morning gatherings at coffee shops, the stillness of Sundays. Add to that now the late afternoon sound of the marching band practicing at the high school that signals that we will soon enter the Friday night football rituals. It’s a rhythm that wafts over most of the city to remind us of what is about to arrive.

Soon we will take part in the the school traffic jams. And so the cycle continues for another year. These are the little rituals that mark time in our community. And these rituals are repeated in countless small towns across the country.

But these rituals are more than the mere repetition of actions or events. They create meaning for us as a community. They mark time. They reminds of what we value as a community. They remind us that we are part of something bigger and more important than us. Rituals create a continuity and community. Sure, it’s the same thing every year, but it’s these same old things I can count on every year.

And as horribly rigid as that might have sounded to my adolescent ears, it is a comfort to my adult ears. These are the things that are important to us, that provide a certain stability, that make us who we are. We create the rituals that define us.

All of this is a topic I will gladly discuss over a beverage or burgers. But if you see me smiling while I walk, it’s because I am enjoying the ritual.

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