Wednesday, 17 June 2009

On returning to small-town living

It’s funny how fast you forget what it’s like, this small-town living stuff. You’d think I’d remember after 21 years of living here and only 3 years away.

What a three years those were. I got married, had a baby, learned how to do for myself all those things that I’d never had the self-confidence to do before then. I missed my family back home, but the growth that happened in me during those years was worth it all.

Now I’m back – temporarily, but back nonetheless.

And remembering just what it was like.

I miss my farmer’s market. I miss our toy lending library. I miss all the programs, all day, every day, including weekends. Even though I’m not a big shopper, I miss all the stores. To sum it up, really, I miss having options. The option to buy food locally. The option to attend a magnificent variety of programs – shows, playgroups, workshops, all of it. The option to go out and buy a new shirt when I need one. Heck, I’m a bit ashamed to admit it, but I even almost miss Walmart.

And the people – wow. The gossip, the backstabbing, the viciousness, the small town politics. I remember how nervous I was when I first moved to the city, convinced that people there would be cold and hard and, well, mean. That ended up being the most surprising part of city life – the people were nice. There was very little gossip, none of the viciousness I’d grown accustomed to here, and a shocking lack of judgment towards others. It didn’t matter how you dressed or who you hung out with – people just accepted you as is, no questions asked.

I had to face the consequences of such small-town gossip just last week. Someone I don’t even particularly know was telling my co-workers that I was pregnant, despite me having not told anyone here, and despite me having not even told my supervisor yet. Because of the spreading rumour and my belief that it is unprofessional for your boss to hear such information second-hand or to be the last to know, I made the decision to tell my supervisor about the pregnancy much earlier than I had planned to, and only a day after one of his other employees had told him she was pregnant as well. What a marked difference to my experience in the same situation in the city, where a co-worker learned I was pregnant and kept the information to himself until I was ready to tell my boss and my other co-workers myself. It just boggles my mind that someone I don’t even know was discussing such personal information with my co-workers. Small-town living – where personal boundaries are all but non-existent.

Still, it’s not all bad here. The lack of options and boundaries aside, I do appreciate the quietness, the slower pace, and the neighbourliness. Just last week we were looking to borrow a roto-tiller for our freshly-dug garden. In the city we probably could have rented it from the hardware store, but here all I had to do was ask a friend if he had one. He was out of town at the time, so he had his brother come over on his tractor and till our garden for us – a job that would have been huge for us to do manually, but took him less than 10 minutes to do far better than we could have ever hoped. The little guy was thrilled to watch the tractor, and I was thrilled to spend the next evening filling the freshly tilled soil with all sorts of vegetable seeds and plants. Here was a man I’d never met before, taking the time to till our garden and refusing anything in return. I can’t say how grateful I am for his kindness.

So, I might not be able to buy the new pair of work sandals I so badly need, I might not be able to take my son to a playgroup or spend an evening with my husband at a concert, and I might have to learn how to deal with having everyone know my personal business for a few months, but it’s the people that make this town so homelike at the same time. There’s the lady at church who remembers when I first moved here at two years old, and now I’ve returned with a two year old of my own. There are the smiles and waves from everyone who walks by. There’s the peacefulness of a quiet walk to the park and the likelihood of stopping to chat with someone you know along the way. There’s the stranger who will drive over on his tractor to till my garden for me.

All in all, it’s really not so bad after all.


  1. I think there is good and bad everywhere you go. I am glad to hear that despite the drawbacks, you are enjoying yourself for the summer.

  2. planting a garden sounds lovely.

  3. Small town life can be hard (the gossip part of it anyhow). I agree there is a total learning curve when you move back from the city, but it sounds like you guys are enjoying it :)