By: Stephanie Reynolds
“Can I pet your dog?”
“Merry GRINCHmas…MERRY GRINCHMAS!”
“I’m your worst nightmare”– a cute little 6- or 7- year-old boy said to absolutely no one in particular. I have known 6-year-old boys. They are very rarely your worst nightmare unless they decide to cut their own hair or baptize the cat.
“Mom, you’re waving at nothing.” [I was trying to check my work email and be enthusiastic to the parade folk, and there was a gap in the parade]
These are a few things heard at the Athens Christmas Parade the night of December 7. But let’s wind the clock back a few hours…
Empty chairs and blankets lined the streets. To an outsider it might look disheveled, but we all knew. We knew what those chairs and blankets truly meant: That Athens is an incredible place to live where you can put your blankets and camp chairs along the road even a day ahead of time, and they will still be there when you return.
(Ok, it also truly meant that our annual Christmas Parade was going on that night and people were staking claims to watch, but more on that in a minute…)
Think about it, folks. For a moment, let’s just consider what it’s like to live in a place where you can set your gear out and have it there when you return many hours later. Oh, I know it isn’t always like this – I myself have been posting about the weak and cowardly preying up on the vulnerable this holiday season – but more importantly it is still sometimes like this. Often like this – Trusting. Genial. A community of neighbors.
We have grown. Limestone County is no longer a sleepy little almost-but-not-quite-too-far bedroom community of Huntsville. We are coming into our own—still bonded but separate from our space-age city-cousin to the east. We are experiencing a huge increase in population and development. In a country where local economies are depressed and businesses closing, we are incredibly blessed to be riding a wave of prosperity and advancement. The country mouse is thriving with both agriculture and industry.
And through it we are keeping our community morals and habits. We all knew what those chairs and blankets and empty cars meant and we respected our fellow citizens. On social media, we were trading tips and hints to get the handicapped and the infirm the best seats in the house. Newcomers to our area were being told prime viewing spots. Two of our fabulous local businesses were sponsoring the livestream so that the entire community, even the sick and tired and house-bound, could be a part of the event (Thank you so much Trinity’s and Open Door Logistics!).
We have grown, yes, but we have kept our character, our warmth, our openness. Let’s never lose that. We have the ability, even the responsibility, to be aware – right now – of who we are and to hold on to that tightly with both hands, regardless of the growth and development. We can warmly guide the new people into our way of genteel and respectful living. We can determine how our community culture changes or doesn’t.
That is entirely up to us. And I think we are doing a great job so far.
By: Stephanie Reynolds, Athens-Limestone Tourism Association