Seeing LaGrange change over the years

Published 7:24 pm Friday, September 15, 2017

Mama initiated the “You’re walking to school” program when I was 9 and brother was 7, and when I protested that two miles was about a mile- and-three-quarters too far for a delicate flower like me to walk, especially when there was long division waiting at the other end of the excursion, she just smiled and poured another cup of coffee. I brought out the big guns and mentioned kidnappers — tall, skinny ones in top hats and long oily black hair, who would scoop me up like the Toymaker in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”!

Mama sipped and assigned me a story to read by O. Henry, about a little boy who made his kidnappers so miserable that they paid his parents to take him back.

When I was a little girl, LaGrange was different. Everyone knew everyone and kids could walk or bike all over town without fear. Mamas cooked and Daddies worked.

We went to church on Sundays. It was a beautiful little town.

I wish that things could still be that innocent here in LaGrange, but of course no place like the LaGrange of my youth exists anymore. In some ways that’s a good thing. With the influx of industry and new citizens brought to town come the bonuses of new ideas and expanding perspectives. We don’t know the entire family history of everyone we meet, and we might not even speak the same language!

Hubby and I attended the “Lagrange International Festival” last weekend, and it was lovely to see a crowd that looked nothing like the homogenous LaGrange citizens of my youth.  I could identify Grandmaw’s friends in a crowd by the color of their hair rinse — hers was Roux’s “White Minx” — but the throngs of people on Main Street last weekend were so diverse that it felt like being in a different, maybe better, town.

Progress happens, or towns dry up and die. LaGrange, with the Thread and park system in the works, our amazing arts community, new industry, our charming local businesses, and the social consciousness that is coming to the fore, is poised to become an example of what Small Town America looks like when it’s done well. Will it be perfect? Nothing is, of course, but I hope that the children of today look back on today’s LaGrange and feel the same love that I feel when I remember my childhood here. I thought I saw Grandmaw’s lacquered “White Minx” bouffant in the distance at the International Festival, but when I got closer, it was a stranger.

She returned my smile and spoke to me in a language I do not know, but it was as beautiful as she.

Pepper Ellis Hagebak is a resident of LaGrange.