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We waited in what was once a formal living room located to the right of the entrance hall in an old Victorian house on Main Street. Floor-to-ceiling bookcases with stern-looking volumes now defined the space, the law firm’s library. Sitting opposite one another, my husband and I watched our attorney’s aging beanpole-lean physique hunch over the mountain of paper, which made a resounding thud when dropped on the conference table. With a sigh, he proceeded to navigate page after page of contradictory regulation and convoluted formality that is real estate settlement today.

“Sign here and here, sir and you, too, ma’am; initials there, and be sure to date or they’ll make us do this all over again. We used to do this with a hand-shake, but now we kill a lot of trees.”

Our attorney’s wife bustled in and out of the room with polite efficiency, serving up forms and updates as they arrived from the bank. Even so, we lacked Truth in Lending. Phone calls, voice messages, emails then the silence of waiting.

“Your wife said that her family had lived in the County for many generations. Is your family here, too?”

Recounting stories of children’s schooling and weddings, of grandchildren running through the rooms of their home, our attorney’s hang-dog voice moved into the warmth of his wife’s kitchen.

“Ah, grandchildren! You sugar ’em up and send them home.”

The sun shone through the windows of the law library when at last the Truth arrived for our signatures. Having survived the final battle of the War of Institutional Bureaucracy, my husband and I left the settlement copies in the car and took ¬†family stories to lunch at the local “table-cloth” cafe. Home and Hearth.

What are your favorite Main Street USA tales?

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