Notes from Glen Ellen: When and how does a ‘town’ become a ‘hometown’?

Think about it. When is your little town a “hometown”? Let me count the ways.

It could be the extraordinary history of a place.

It could be the little landmarks—the pot belly stove in the old Garden Court, the angel statue in the SDC cemetery, the dusty smell of Bill’s Hardware, the graceful yellow brick bridge built for horse and buggy, the train car parked on Arnold once belonging to…(was it Charleton Heston?) now gone, the cannon, Penigas swimming hole, the old Pet Cemetery at the end of Henno Road.

It could be the traditions like the fifth-grade play, the Firefighters’ Easter egg hunt, the holiday lights on the town bridge, the Fair Quilt, the Jack-to-Jack yacht race down Sonoma Creek, and the Glen Ellen Village Fair.

It could be stories from the Rustic, from Hippie Hollow and London side, George’s 3-Nations Bar in the Chauvet Hotel, Reels on Wheels, Juanita, the biplane crash into the parking lot of the London Lodge.

Or, it could be town’s attitude. This little town has been knocked to its knees by disaster. Ambushed by fire in 2017 when precious historical buildings, wonderful old homes, and several entire neighborhoods were lost. Now, stuffed indoors for months to prevent spread of contagion that could threaten one’s neighbors, we twiddle our thumbs. Midnight evacuations again last month from the advancing flames from the north. Loss, of neighborhoods, of jobs, of income, of history, of stories—these are the warp and woof of a community.

But attitude, personality, emotion, temperament, is what makes us a “hometown.” A journalist is burned out of his Adobe Canyon home last month, and the community supports him through it. A family, whose every act is to help others, loses their precious century-old cabin on Adobe Canyon that same day, and still, they continue to do for others.

Then last Sunday, somewhat under the radar, a small group of folks gathered for a jolly moment of playing live music in the Glen Ellen Post Office parking lot. It was, you might say, a spontaneous and secret eruption of rebellious joy against this onslaught of disasters. Local boy T Luke (‘T’ being a Louisiana honorific like “junior”) played with a local buddy, Beau Bradbury, of the California Honey Drops. Under the shade of an old oak, they took this moment surreptitiously to add a little spirit and delight to some pent-up Glen Ellen people. Their guitar and bass ensemble reminded us that it’s “A Wonderful World,” as a few old friends had a chance to high-five each other—always COVID-consciously— and sway to the tunes, and some needed joy was had.

Attitude, personality, emotion, temperament, is what makes us a ’hometown.’

There are other examples of that plucky Glen Ellen soul that prefer to go unrecognized. Gatherings, they fear, could draw criticism even though they are being COVID-conscious. They gather to commemorate, to drink a toast to a bright future. The human spirit will gather, and so it is in Glen Ellen, and so it will be.

This cheerful rise-to-the occasion is the essence of a hometown.

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