I haven’t been back to visit my father’s grave in Illinois since his funeral in 2007, so my sister’s e-mail containing an image of the stone was a welcomed sight. It’s a simple marker, slightly elevated from the grass containing his name and dates, the Janus logo and this line– Leave them wanting more. It’s a great line, especially for my father, who knew when to end a story, an argument, an advertisement or a eulogy. His strength lay in his often keen ability to self edit, whether written or spoken.
Leave them wanting more can be applied to so many things in this time of excess and heightened self importance. Leave them wanting more, not taking more. Wanting and taking are polar opposites.
A lot of people today are clamoring for their own personal version of celebrity. They drop in at the local diner and share ten pictures of the event. They believe everybody who knows them needs to have this information.
“Heading off to an overdue appointment at the nail salon.”
“Why can’t we have ‘nut-free’ and ‘contains nuts’ tables at the school bake sale?”
“Just about to eat this monster donut!”
Not only do I not yearn for more, but find myself running from what is offered. I want to share in the lives of my friends and family, but mainly key events.
My father’s memorial is the only connection I have to a now much altered community. When I was a small child, the town and surrounding area was awash in flat, black Illinois farm soil and patches of forgotten prairie pushed up against the encroaching but still distant suburban sprawl. The main street was quaint and two-bit with Swiss chalet store fronts and an old mansion serving as the library. The local diner had a twenty foot milk bottle sitting on the roof that said, “Joe’s.” But before I was out of middle school a large percentage of that rich soil was sold, paved and turned into auto dealerships.
The town currently boasts having thirteen extremely large, new car lots. The town website proudly declares, “In Libertyville buying a car has never been easier!” At what price? And of course the milk bottle is gone for better or worse. Libertyville, where my father is buried, has never left anything alone which might explain how it became a wealthy upscale village that young professional families clamor to today. The town motto: Fortitudine Vincimus
“By endurance we conquer” says it all. They don’t want more because they took it all. I understand this is not particular to Libertyville. Most small communities that rest within commuting distance of a major metropolis strive for this achievement.
Except where I live. Noting the subheading of this blog, Navigating the world from a small lake near New York City, this is surprising.
When we moved here over thirteen years ago the business district was a sleepy, ramshackle collection of quaint, small businesses. We had a decent hardware store, salons, a pharmacy, wine shop, auto repair, pet supply store, two post offices, a decent deli, pizza parlor and a number of professional offices. Today we consist of a biker bar, two nail salons, tanning salon, a bagel shop, a beading den, pharmacy and a liquor store that is struggling to the point of absurdity. Most of the businesses are stuffed into a large out of place blue office building that never should have been built. There’s a fine line between rural bliss and rural blight and we’ve reached it.
Libertyville destroyed it’s rural character by paving over the richest farm land in the world to make more parking spots. My town has retained it’s rural character but at the same time driven out most small businesses and left vacant, rotting storefronts that glare at visitors just on the other side of the town’s welcome sign. This is not the outcome of a bad economy but bad planning. Our lack of development has left us wanting more. Not always a good thing. Like everything in life we need a balance. Our town motto is Putnam Valley: The Jewel of Putnam County, which I really think they should reconsider. Too bad my Dad isn’t around to write a more appropriate one.