I’m contemplating writing about my kids every week now. That last post got the most traffic of any post I’ve ever written, by far. It’s tempting, but all I can think about when it comes to my kids right now is the fact that my daughter is talking and playing when she’s supposed to be laying in her bed sleeping. Kids. I tell ya.
Well, this post isn’t going to be about my kids, but they’ll probably get mentioned once or twice anyway. This week I’m talking about what it’s like to live in a small town. This is a topic that I know very well, because I’ve never lived in a town that had more than 35,000 people living in it, which was the biggest town I’ve ever lived in by far, and I only lived there for about a year and a half.
The town I live in now only contains about 900 people, and it is located somewhere deep in the woods of rural America. My wife and children and I have lived here since July 2006. My wife grew up here, and we actually live about three-tenths of a mile from the house where she grew up. Her parents still live there, and her sister lives next door to them. It’s a tight-knit family, to say the least.
It’s a little odd living in such a small town, but it’s more or less what I’m used to. I was born in a city of about 15,000 people, moved to one that only had about 100 people living in it, and then moved from there to a town that had a population of a little under 10,000. Finally, my family moved to a town with a population of a little less than 20,000, which is where I spent my teenage years, and where my parents still live to this day.
When my wife and I got married, we lived in a small university town with a population of about 7500, and then we moved to the aforementioned city of 35,000 people, and then we moved to her hometown. None of these places are suburbs of a larger city. They are all pretty much self-contained units. So you can see that I have experience living in a variety of different sizes of small towns, but nothing that could be considered a “city”, really.
One thing I tell people to give them a sense of the smallness of this town is that the closest Wal-Mart is a half-hour drive away. It doesn’t quite seem possible in this day and age that there COULD be a place in America that’s half an hour away from the closest Wal-Mart, but there you go. It’s not even a Super Wal-Mart. Just a regular ol’ dinky Wal-Mart.
The cliche about living in a small town is that everybody knows everybody, and I find that that’s pretty much true. I’m not much of a people person, so I try to ignore other humans as much as possible, but I find that people here tend to know who I am regardless. I suppose that has to do with the fact that my wife is the 8th grade teacher at the local school, which makes her a bit of a local celebrity. That and she’s descended from a family that’s lived here since the 18th century or so. Although that bit might apply to just about everybody who grew up here.
That reminds me of another thing about living in a small town. A few years ago, the 8th grade teacher at the local school retired. He had been teaching there for 30 years. My wife is trained as a teacher, so when he retired, she applied for his job and got it. A thoroughly unremarkable story, except for the fact that she was now a staff member at the school where she had once been a student. And she was replacing the man who had been her 8th grade teacher. And she now was working with people who had once been her teachers. Maybe this sort of thing happens in big-city schools too, but I bet it’s rare.
Going back to everybody knowing everybody though, that fact was well illustrated to me the first day we moved here. We actually got married here, in the church that my wife grew up in (which we are now members of), and we had come back to visit often as well, so I should have expected this, but it still caught me off guard. We ordered some pizza, since we were still unpacking and stuff and didn’t want to bother cooking. I went out to the store to get the pizza, and went up to the counter to pay for it. As far as I knew, I had never met the woman behind the counter in my life, but she called me by my name and acted like she knew me. Of course, I know who she is now. She’s the secretary at the school, and my son’s Sunday School teacher. But I had no idea back then. First day in town, and people already knew who I was. Small-town living, baby.
As with so much in my life, I never wanted to live in a small town. As a kid, I always imagined that I would end up in a city someday. (For some reason, Boston or Seattle always seemed like the most likely destinations.) But living in a small town isn’t so bad. I never have to worry about getting stuck in traffic. I don’t have to worry about my Wi-Fi network interfering with that of my neighbors’ (or vice versa). I can listen to music as loud as I want without worrying about it bothering my neighbors, and I don’t have to worry about my neighbors playing loud music of their own and bothering me.
There are downsides, of course, especially for a tech junkie like me. Cell phone coverage is spotty, at best. There’s no 3G coverage here, much less 4G. The nearest Best Buy is two hours away. The nearest Apple store is four hours away. But I make do.
Ultimately, I know that I am where God wants me to be. I may not always understand His reasons, but I know that they’re the right reasons. And that’s all I need.