My husband and I were drawn to the community of Steamboat Springs over thirty years ago largely because it was a small town. We wanted the easy familiarity of friends and neighbors and a slower pace and a smaller scale to our day to day living. At that time, the stable population was around 5000 residents. Today, the population has more than doubled, but in many ways, we still consider it a small town. Compared to navigating city traffic, it’s still relatively easy to run errands in town, unless it’s the middle of winter or summer tourist season. On the east end of town, the grocery store, doctor’s offices, post office, and bike path are all within one mile of one another.
During the quieter months of late October through early December, it’s not unusual to see many old friends in the grocery store. Recently, I found myself in the produce section looking at my watch. It said 1:45 PM. I was fifteen minutes away from a dental appointment and not yet finished with my grocery shopping. I’d bumped into Holly, the wife of the doctor who delivered my children. Her son is now a water lawyer and her daughter a professional dancer on the east coast. I’d talked to a fellow Cattlewoman, Charlotte, and learned that she and her husband had shipped out their final semi-load of hay and she was ready for a vacation. She wasn’t sure if her husband had heard her make the declaration. I’d visited with Georgianne, the mother of a soccer player I had coached. She said she hoped her daughter would find a real job one day when the economy improves. And I’d talked with Jan, whose son, Tommy, grew up with Andy in 4-H and now works on the family ranch. She’d just returned from taking her mother south to Arizona where she spends the winters. With a smile, Jan said, “It didn’t look too bad. I may be down there myself because I don’t think I’ll ever get Dean to stop working.”
The conversations had taken up my usual hour in the grocery store and my list wasn’t yet complete. That meant I’d have to come back to the grocery store after my dental appointment. But on this day, when the pace and season slowed, I found myself relinquishing the list and the schedule to the spontaneous remembrances and reconnections with friends from the past. In our meeting it was easy to feel immersed in the past and the future all in one conversation.