Settin’ and Visitin’ · 25 July 2015

Country store on dirt road.
Photograph by Dorothea Lange 1939 July

Poor English aside, I think settin’ and visitin’ is a lost art.

People are way too busy just to set a spell and visit. Now, I know that “set” is not really the correct word. People really ought to “sit and talk” rather than “set and visit,” but nobody seems to do that anymore. People do not just drop in or come by for a visit. It really is a shame.

I remember being a kid and being at any of our relatives’ farms. It seems people were always dropping by. Uninvited. It was not a strange thing or a nuisance. It was just the way of life. Neighbors were neighborly. I am sure people dropped by to borrow eggs or sugar sometimes, but more often than not, people were just interested in catching up with each other. They just wanted a bit of human companionship. So they usually came in and set a spell. And if they did not come in for a chat, they would stand outside a-visitin’ way longer than they had intended. Sometimes, they even came inside after standing around visitin’. It was just the way things were.

Today, people do not have time to visit. Instead, they poke around on Facebook just being voyeurs or updating their statuses on Twitter so that others can peek at them. It is great fun to do and it can create a digital community, but it is not the same as settin’ around visitin’.

I am reminded of this whenever I go to visit my parents.

Mom and Dad are not farmers anymore. They were part of a generation who headed off to the universities to make a better life for their families. Their parents wanted them to be more than farmers and not have to toil and sweat so hard working the land. Still, Mom and Dad are the kind of people who people still come to set and visit.

(By the way, I do know that using “set” in this case is incorrect English, but it does make sense. When you sit, you set your bottom on the chair. Which is probably where the misused term “set a spell” comes from. Or if not, it sounds likely enough. Besides, it is a more interesting explanation than people mispronouncing sit with set.)

Like I said, I am reminded of this phenomenon of settin’ and visitin’ every time I visit the folks. And this last time was no exception. Not only did we kids sit around with Mom and Dad at the dinner table long after any meal was over, people came a-visitin’ a time or two. On at least a couple days of our stay, we sat at the table chatting for hours.

I am not sure why settin’ and visitin’ is a lost art. Maybe it is because we are too busy. Maybe it is because people have moved away from being a nuclear family – few people live near where they grew up anymore. Maybe it is because we are too busy with Facebook and Twitter or other social media. Or maybe it is because people do not drink drip coffee anymore. Whatever the reason, people seem less inclined to talk to their neighbors who live next door than to their friends across the country. We do not seem to have much time for face-to-face interaction. For seeing each other IRL.

Or maybe it is just me. Maybe I sit in my hole and do not get out much. Maybe I am too busy doing nothing to go out and see what others are doing. Maybe I am the one who has forgotten the art of settin’ and visitin’.

I am not sure I am cut out for the simple life, but sometimes I think it is what I need. I need to just get off the internet and get out the door. Not to just fill my schedule. But to just go a-visitin’. And when I am not out visitin’, I hope people feel free to just drop by to set a spell. Maybe we will find out that settin’ and visitin’ is not such a lost art after all.

© 2015 Michael T. Miyoshi

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