Monday, July 02, 2007

SOOO not a small town girl.

You know you're in a small town when:

The marker on the road has no population number.

The main building in town is the grain mill/silo.

You slow down for the mph marker, but didn't realize why until it was too late.

Seriously, I hope I didn't offend any small town readers, I mean it without malice. I actually am intrigued by small towns. As we drive through, I am always scouring the yards and homes, looking for the owners of the slightly run-down bungalow that has the sweet flower garden out front. I am amazed at the ability to live in such a small, enclosed area. How does one live without feeling trapped? Perhaps it's not so suffocating in Illinois. Most areas, you can drive half an hour and reach a larger town. But even those larger towns are small in comparison to what I am used to.

We tried small town living. We owned our first home in a very tiny town, actually. But it was 10 minutes from a very large and growing area. In fact, it was ten minutes from my parents and sister. Perfect. An older, small home on a large piece of property with all of the benefits of a small town (closer community, smaller schools) but the benefits of a large suburban area as well (variety of entertainment, culture, people and CHOICES in what to do). So, we figured, when Patrick got transferred an hour West of our first home, that the small town by his job would be just the same. After all, it was 15 minutes from another larger town, and that town had a mall and movies and such, so it MUST be what we were used to, right?

Not so. After selling our first home in 1 week (People, I had 8 showings in 6 days with 2 offers. Think we might have underpriced a bit? Damn.) we were able to buy a much bigger home, on a beautiful yard with rooms already decorated perfectly for us. The previous family had had 2 boys, with one being younger as well, so Justin got a green room (his favorite color!) and Evan got a Jungle mural room (gorgeous).

I signed him up for preschool (after checking a few out before moving. 2 that I could find, 1 was SCARY and the other was doable). Well. I pulled Justin out of this "preschool" because it was really just a daycare with a fancy name. I was a SAHM, I didn't need him in daycare! I wanted him learning stuff. Also, I heard from a new neighbor bad stuff about this facility. In fact, she had been talking and laughingly said that as long as I didn't have him enrolled in such and such daycare, it would be ok. Since she had worked there and had seen some awful stuff with the food quality and care and that she had been able to just walk into the building and take her daughter one day and NO ONE was there to stop her! Freaky.

Wow. That was a bit of a ramble. Back on subject.

So, strike one against the town. But I found a really sweet PRESCHOOL that I enrolled him in later that month, and life was good.

Shopping was interesting. I was used to choices. If one store didn't suit my needs, I would take my business elsewhere. Not so in a small town. The grocery in town was close, for sure (everything was) but the prices were high and the food, eh, ok. Strike 2.

The people... ok, again, I don't mean to offend anyone. Not EVERYone in this town was like this, but I just DIDN'T fit in. 2 of the boys in the first preschool had mullets, people. MULLETS. In the year 2001. One little boy that befriended Justin (I liked his mom, actually) had a gun cabinet in the living room. UNlocked. Kids were riding in the back of the pick up trucks, and this was NOT uncommon. Seatbelts? Huh? People seemed to have their own way of doing things. We didn't meet the neighbors until we were moving out (9 months later. We couldn't take it.) And even then? THEN they were saying what a shame it was that we didn't get to know each other, and hey, do you wanna drag off this joint? (seriously)

I had issues with raising my kids in an area where "ethnic" meant "Irish," and where the main source of entertainment was the movie theater in the next town over. I had issues with the town's school, while enrolling Justin for kindergarten. There were 2 options on the form: full day or half day. I asked the secretary about it, and she said that they usually only had 2 or 3 kids doing the half day at the beginning of the year, and that those kids usually went to full day after a month or so of seeing their friends "get" to stay all day. I asked her why everyone would choose full day, and she explained that most people WANTED their kids there full time, so they could all work without daycare. I have no problem with families that choose or need to work full time. But if almost the entire parental grouping of the kindergarten families are working, this says something to me about the economic majority of the area. Not to sound terribly snobby (though I know it does) but I would like my children to have exposure to not only DIFFERENT children, but also children that are the same. Would we be considered the wealthy family in town? I found out that our home was in the really nice part of town. Really? It was very nice, indeed, but not extravagant by any means. I didn't want to be raising the town rich kids. I wanted my children to be somewhere in the middle. To be appreciative of both aspects. To not question me when they saw someone of a different color, or handicapped, or affected by other physical differences.

Patrick came to me in February and said "I've had it. Let's just move." I simply said, "Really? Ok." And that was that. We put the house on the market. We waited. And waited. And realized that the market in this town was, ah, slow to be sure. FINALLY, after a month, we had a walk-through. And they made an offer. A low ball offer. We countered a bit, but took a major cut in price, as I knew we had to take what we could get. We made $60.00 on that house, lost a WHOLE bunch of money in equity, but I wanted OUT.

We found our current home. Bigger suburban sprawl, nice new home, community club benefits with pool and on-site school. Lots of clubs to join, choices in stores, a REAL mall, closer to Chicago, and lots of neighbors that don't look exactly the same as we do.


Now, if I could just get rid of those thistle bushes and have Patrick finish off the basement...

Anyone from a small town care to enlighten me? How do you handle the smallness of everything? The limitations of choice (in people, places and viewpoints)?


Beck said...

We do live in a very, very small town - population 1000. The nearest malls and movie theaters are an hour away. There's one iffy grocery store in town (much like the one you described) and one hardware store and that. is. it.
We would be poorish in a bigger area but our considered middle class here AND we can afford a nice big house. SO for us, there are sound economic reasons for staying here - it's not perfect, but pretty much everyone in town knows our kids and is looking out for them, mullets or not. said...

See, beck, that is what I was hoping for in a small town. But we met maybe 2 people. And I consider myself fairly outgoing! Perhaps it was just not a good fit for us, or that another town would have worked out better. I actually know more people in our large town now than there. But I am glad that you love your town. And again, I hope it didn't sound like I was saying that I hate small towns!

Her Bad Mother said...

We've often thought about moving to a small town outside the city - but that would be key: *outside* the city, just. I wouldn't be able to survive too far from good coffee and Vietnamese food...

Melissa said...

I don't know how people do it. We rented a house in a small town... well, OUTSIDE of the small town. Our closest neighbor was about 100 yards away and the next one was over a mile. The little town had a bar, a hardware store and a gas station/grocery store. The largest town was about half an hour away. I didn't do well out there. I got very depressed and just about made my hubby insane. Needless to say we moved after about 3 months. Not to a huge town, but at least it had a WalMart ;)

Elle*Bee said...

I got a chuckle out of your comment about not wanting to raise the town's rich kids. I've long joked that I'd rather be the "poor folks" on the block than the rich. A little snobbish, yes, but I like it when my neighbors take pride in their homes and yards. I like it when they actually have their trash picked up. (We pay extra for trash pickup.)

Most of my area is pretty affluent, in fact, my neighborhood is one of the least expensive (modest) in the area. So I guess we really are the poor folk, comparatively speaking.

My biggest issue with my area (the flip side of the small town - used to be small, but is booming now) is because there is a lot of affluence, many of the teens seem to have a false sense of entitlement. A brand new car at graduation? Um, nice but... where's the work ethic? The multiple designer handbags for highschool girls? (I was 37 before I got my first designer handbag.). Nothing wrong with sharing your wealth with your family if you balance that with instilling values.

That said, I used to spend my summers in a very small town when I was young (pop. 650). People pretty much knew everyone (or heard of everyone). Having grown up in the 'burbs of New Orleans (southern hospitality and all that), I found this little town in southeast Michigan one of the most friendly places ever.

painted maypole said...

thanks for stopping by my blog! :) small towns... I grew up in a smallish one, and don't think I could go back. I'm really a city girl at heart, I think, but am enjoying the suburbs for raising my little girl.

kate said...

i think it's AAAAAALLLL a matter of WHAT small town.

we live in a small town, surrounded by others and we love it.

sometimes visitors talk about there being "nothing to do." but that's only because they are used to convenience and being handed everything. there's lots to do. and much if it is out in nature.

i don't like living in places that are covered in strip malls. i don't need to see the Golden Arches or Wal freakin' Mart everywhere. not interested. i like the openness here. the space. and that we have to be more creative about how we spend our time and where.

every weekend for 3 weeks, we've gone on hikes. we have a community center. libraries. museums. farms. lakes and rivers.

it's awesome. and we're not bombarded with "stuff" all the time.

my 2 cents.


Jen said...

I have to agree with Kate here......I've lived in small (pop. 392), and big (Houston) and I prefer the smaller, although there are some small towns I wouldn't be caught dead in.

I prefer the fresh air and being able to walk outside on my patio in my underwear to grab the dog if I need to and not worry about neighbors looking at me. I like having some elbow room.....but if I am more than half hour from Target we could have problems!! HA!

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