Do I Know You?… by JoAnn

A cartoon alien is standing up and holding his hand out.

When we first moved to our little Tennessee town in 1992, I jokingly told family and friends that we had moved to Mayberry.  That seemed to be the only way to accurately describe where we had landed.  

In many ways, it felt like we had time traveled back to the fifties or sixties.  It was a culture shock for someone like myself, who had just spent the last 20 years of my life in the loud, bustling city of Newport News, Virginia.  We lived within walking distance (and definite earshot) of the world-famous shipyard.

In the city, people or neighbors, pretty much kept to themselves.  We all had the attitude, I’ll mind my business, and you mind yours.  Oh, we could be friendly if we were in the mood to nod or introduce ourselves to a new neighbor.  But mostly that was for the young mothers on the street so their kids could become acquainted and be playmates.  Or this was my experience in the particular neighborhood where we lived. 

I quickly realized that in this small, Mayberry like town, everyone knew everyone.  And I was the new stranger in town.  I had never felt like an interloper before, but found myself in that position.  Looking back, I couldn’t really blame the citizens of our new home town.  After all, their families had lived in this area for generations!   

Many of the kids that attended the small elementary and middle schools were cousins.  Their parents, and their parents, had all gone through school together in these same two buildings.  It was not uncommon for a teacher to have taught several generations of the same family by retirement age.  

Early on, I was quite puzzled by something that kept happening to me.  It seemed every time I drove on Main Street, drivers that passed me would wave.  “Do I know you?”, I would think to myself as I waved back with what I’m sure was a bewildered look on my face.  I wasn’t use to this friendliness.  Surely, they had me mistaken for someone else.  That’s it.  I must look A LOT like another lady that lives here and they think I’m her!  Perhaps my doppelganger is right here in my Mayberry.  That had to be the explanation.  Why else would I be receiving waves from strangers?  I had never received them in the city unless someone was trying to warn me something was wrong with my car.  

After a few months, I learned that I was not being mistaken for my twin.  The waving was just their culture.  A way of being friendly to us strangers.  I met many people along the way that were truly kind and neighborly.  Who accepted me into their fold I guess you could say.  But I also met many who never quite let the stigma of my being a stranger go.  

It’s been 26 years, and honestly, not a lot has changed in our little town.  I still get waved at when driving and still find myself asking, “do I know you?”.  Sometimes, if I’m in a playful mood, I’ll flip things around.  I’ll wave back in such a way, that just maybe, they will be asking themselves, “do I know her?”.  Ha, ha!