Once, not too many years after we moved to Peabody, my parents and sister came to visit us. After they spent a few days here, they went on to see family in Arkansas. Before she left, my mom pulled me aside and said, “Don’t let yourself get swallowed up in a town like this. You will like the closeness and the friends you make, but there is just no future here.”
I was from a good-sized community near Chicago. There were more than 300 students in my graduating class. I understood what she meant. This was not a place to enter into a 30-year mortgage. This was not a place to properly raise a family, as it had none of the ‘necessary’ shopping, eating, entertainment, or cultural hot spots. It was miles to the nearest theater, even farther to the nearest shopping center. These were important considerations for us. In addition, how would we know if our children excelled, or even succeeded, scholastically in relation to students from larger school districts?
Initially I did not want to stay here either. However, we found a niche and we made some truly wonderful friends. We had more than four decades of good living in this community. We learned to navigate the traffic to Wichita and Kansas City when shopping, entertainment, or culture called. Our daughters each got a good education, earned awards in their academic and extra-curricular fields, were members of close-knit classes in our schools, and went on to attain advanced degrees. When the Mister died in 2010, the support and love extended to our family was beyond belief. I have no regrets about Peabody.
It does not seem so long ago that my mom warned me about getting out while I still could. However, much to my surprise I have become a Peabody old timer. Oh my, how did that happen? This past week, someone repeated my mother’s sentiments. She said, “At first I thought you were a native and then as I got to know you I realized you weren’t. But you are still here. Why is that? This place is like the end of the earth.”
I was a little offended by her comments and yet that is exactly what I thought about Peabody when I first arrived. Good grief, who did I think I was in my mid-20s to assess the value of a community? I had that attitude so long ago it almost is foreign to me now.
Another event that comes to mind is a comment in a mid-1970s letter to the editor of this newspaper by another transplant to Peabody. I no longer remember the issue she addressed, but a comment in her letter was, “…Peabody isn’t Heaven…” No it isn’t. Nor was it then.
However, as I age I appreciate what I have here. I feel safe and comfortable. I have some health issues, but generally I am happy with the county and local services and do not feel the need to run to a larger city for care. I love our history and our place in western migration in the 1880s. I enjoy knowing I can walk into any business in this town and say, “Oops, I forgot my check book. Can I catch you tomorrow?” I also appreciate the volunteers who serve us. I wish there were more, but I applaud those we have. I still wonder if we are giving our young people the education they need and deserve, but guess what? People everywhere think the same thing, whether it is Peabody-Burns or a district in Johnson County.
I am not sure what my mom meant by “…there is just no future here…,” but I think she was likely wrong. I am glad to have been a part of this community. It most certainly is not the end of the earth. Many thanks to all of you who have helped me become an old-timer. Thanks as well to those who make Peabody a place in which to get swallowed up. Thanks for accepting me and making me welcome enough to stay for 45 years!