Tag Archives: small towns

Contemplating the Do-Over–Part 2

It’s been almost a year since I did this the first time.

One year since Orlando and I finished a week of prayer and fasting with the conclusion that we were going to pack up our tents and move to Nebraska. And the next six months of that decision, chronicled so well in this blog, were a whirlwind of tiny pieces and bits of what it took us to make that move. All the conversations and goodbyes and boxes and miles. All the contortions our hearts made as we left our home and friends and lives. All the anxiety mixed with all the hope and dreams of things to come.

And now we’ve been here on the plains for six months. And the firestorm of endings and preparations gave way to the gradual work of building a life. Our life. Our new life. And as simple a concept as that may be, the work of it has been quite challenging.

It’s a different world here. I knew that, of course, before coming and you knew that because I told you. But it’s an amazing thing to live in a place where people stay. I’ve met person after person who have lived right here in this small, Nebraska town their entire lives. Or at least have lived nearby. (I’ve lived so many places I can scarcely count them all.) And although there are plenty of people who seem to come and go, it is this strong core of “lifers” that actually create the community as I know it. A small, tight community. They’re committed to this place and their way of life, and sometimes it feels as though they are watching to see if we’re committed, too. And waiting to see if we will become part of them.

And slowly, slowly, slowly we move closer to them. And slowly, slowly, slowly they let us.

Now for someone like me, who is much more inclined to burst into a room and yell “Ta Da!” at the world, this slow dance can be a little maddening. But I understand it’s importance. These are people who stay. Their children will be friends with my sons from now until college. We will sit next to each other at potlucks, basketball games, and banquets for the next decade. And because they stay, they need to know we’re for real. They need to know we mean what we say. They need to know we’re worth their trust.

And that puts us just about where I thought we’d be the first time I contemplated the do-over.

So I guess we’re on schedule.

The Grid

When I met Orlando, everybody called him “Lanny.”

Maybe some of you still do and if you do that’s not a big deal to him. But somewhere early in our marriage he asked me to call him Orlando. It is, after all, his given name and he would prefer to use it. So I obliged and now “Lanny” is a name I seldom, if ever, use. And the result, after 15 years of doing it, is that a lot of people only know him as Orlando. It’s a name we’ve grown used to. Until recently, I kind of forgot I ever had to work at switching.

But here in Milford it does cause some consternation.

First of all I should tell you that when I meet people in Milford, the first order of business is their plotting me on the grid. The map. The Milford family tree. It’s impossible to know somebody here without knowing “who they’re with” (Godfather reference intended). It’s important to them. It’s not like those of us from the crowded coasts who meet people every single day that come from nowhere or everywhere. Here, people have an origin. A heritage. To know me is to know where I fit.

So when we meet, they consider me with a pleasant expression and say, “Okay, so you’re a Roth. Who is your husband?”

“Orlando,” I reply.

I watch as a strange look comes over their faces. “Orlando?” they puzzle. “Orlando? Who are his parents?”

“Milt and Wilma,” I answer. “You know, the ones who owned the restaurant.”

“Oh right! Wow, do we miss that place! And they have a son named Orlando?” I watch as the person mentally ticks through the family members, one by one, until….

“Oh, you mean Lanny!”

“Right,” I say.

And without a doubt, one of the following statements will emerge:

“I went to high school with Lanny.” “I’ve know Lanny since I was a little kid.” “Lanny and I used to be in the same Sunday School class.” And the ever famous, “Lanny is my second cousin.”

And then the person and I will small talk for a little while.  I try feverishly to remember the name of this person and they succeed in nailing my place in on the grid. The exchange making them comfortable in knowing where I fit, and even helps them infer several key pieces of information about me without even having to dig for it. Knowing Lanny  means they know me.

But does it?

Well, yes, to one extent it does. To know Lanny means to know I must be a committed Christian. He wouldn’t have married anyone else. And it also means that I probably hold to his values: strong family, education, hard work. All true–I value those things. And I admire my husband more than I can say for how he lives out those values in the real world. But is that it? Is that all there is to know about me?

Well of course it isn’t. The rest is a mystery to be unraveled. It would be as much of a mistake for the good people of Milford to assume that Lanny and I are identical as it would be for me to assume that they are all identical. Or defined by their places on the grid. It might send you in the right direction, but in the end we become the people we choose to become.

And I think that’s part of the reason that I am married to Orlando and not Lanny. He’s been away from here a long time. Has changed and grown and been refined by experience and the intervention of a loving God. He’s a teacher, a husband, a father.  And he’s a man, not a boy.

I guess that makes both of us a mystery. Who is this masked man? And who is his wife?

And that’s with or without the grid.