In my teens and early 20s, there was but one truth that I held self-evident: I would never, ever be “small town.”
From my earliest preteen years, I had sent my sights on getting out of town. Upon reaching adulthood, I was going to decamp to a “big city” just as fast as my little feet could carry me. Of this, there was no doubt.
Growing up, I enjoyed tree-lined streets, close neighbors and sidewalks that stretched endlessly to everywhere from my elementary school around the corner to a massive library downtown. It was a sweet and peaceful existence and looking back; I would not have wished to grow up anywhere else.
Nonetheless, like young people the world over, I couldn’t wait to leave it all in the dust.
Fast-forward 20 years and here I am, a small-town girl — with the exception that technically, I’d actually have to move to become small “TOWN.”
We don’t have many towns around here. What we have are vast rural areas loosely dotted with areas where someone went hog wild, installed a stoplight and went ahead and became a “village.”
That’s about as racy as it gets around here.
There are no bright lights (I’d have to go to the next village for that kind of action) and there is certainly no city.
So how did a girl with big ambitions trade wanderlust for tractor dust?
Like most inexplicable choices in life, I blame it all on love. It is said that opposites attract and I believe this to be undeniably true.
I fell in love with a country boy. When I met Mr. Wonderful, he was country through and through. A cowboy hat-wearing, once rode a pig as a child, grew up on a farm without benefit of sidewalks or a cul-de-sac, sort of country boy.
From the moment we met, I knew I would follow him anywhere — and I did. I followed him right to the end of the earth — quite literally, as my city friends would say.
As near as I can recall, we agreed to have coffee together and woke on up on 12 acres with two kids, two dogs, a cat, a goat and poor cable reception.
Today, I am 100 percent small town and the funny thing is that rather than be horrified — I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Small town is feed mills, dime stores and the little grocer that only carries half of what you really need and none of quite a lot, but, curiously, still manages to save you more often than not when you need “just one more thing” to make your life — or project — complete.
It’s the post office where they affix the extra postage and go ahead and send that birthday card for you. Then tell you about it next time you drop in because they know you’re good for the 3 cents.
Small town is standing room only at the first-grade musical because it really is the hottest ticket in town. Better yet, it is believing when we leave the auditorium (if only for a night) that Broadway really doesn’t have anything on us.
Small town is a last-minute request for baked goods for the elementary school’s father-daughter dance, and seeing a steady stream of covered plates arrive all afternoon. So many that at the end of the night, they had to be donated to a variety of worthy causes lest they overflow the cafeteria.
Granted, I’m sure any major metropolis has baked goods, too, but there is something heartwarming about knowing that no cookie emergency goes unmet in a small town.
Small town is the library that automatically sets aside a book they know you’ll love. A diner that still serves “real” mashed potatoes because “the box kind aren’t fit for hogs” and the numerous small-town merchants who can be counted on to support ball teams and bake sales and field a float in the annual parade.
More important, small town is all about people. Small town is safety in (small) numbers. I think people are nicer in small towns for a reason. They have to be. The person you gesture rudely at in traffic just may be your child’s third-grade teacher, your neighbor’s mother, or the loan officer at the bank.
Why risk it?
Looking back, I’m sure the teenage me would be disgusted with myself. She would say that I have “settled.” She would be right. I’ve settled down. Settled in.
And settled for knowing that small town can hold a pretty big place in your heart.
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