I feel like I spent my entire youth trying to escape my hometown and the majority of my adult years coming back to relax, take a time out and watch some sunsets. There is something to be said for being raised in a small town.
I met my first best friend, Rachel, when I was 5 years old. She lived down the street and came to the yard sale I was having at my grandparent’s house. She bought a stuffed animal for her little cousin, took it home and came right back. We stayed close for the next 15 years.
Growing up in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia meant that the streets were our play ground. We rode our bikes anywhere and everywhere from morning until night and only stopped home for snacks. We didn’t ask to go to a friend’s house. We just went. We never wondered if our parents knew that kid’s parents. They just did.
We didn’t need to be warned about strangers. There were none. We were given money to go to the store when we ran out of dish soap. When we got home, we would no doubt be given money to run back to the store for milk. And if you got to the store, and your parent’s hadn’t given you enough money? Well, it was okay. The cashier would just get it from them later.
Growing up in a small town meant that every day you would pass something built by a great grandfather, painted by an uncle, or planted by a cousin. Small towns are built by families, more or less.
Street signs get hand painted, buildings get bright coats of paint, and walls get crawling vines. There is a touch of whimsy everywhere you look, when you come from a small town. The only people you ever have to satisfy are the ones you already know.
When you grow up in a small town, the closest city is 3 1/2 hours away by car (although once upon a time, you could pay hundreds for a tiny plane ride). The trip is a familiar one to everybody. Going to the city becomes synonymous with restaurants, back to school shopping, concerts, bars, visiting family and staying in hotels. It also means backseat rides with pillows and blankets and drawing an imaginary line down the middle of the seat and forcing your little sister not to touch you for the entire car ride.
Growing up in a small town meant summer evening drives with your grandparents after church to get ice cream. Any flavor but moon mist, and preferably dipped in butterscotch.
Growing up in a small town meant getting asked by teachers, the pharmacist and random seniors in the grocery store check out line if you were ‘so and so’s’ kid, granddaughter, cousin, sister, or niece. And of course, the answer was always yes.
Spending any amount of time in a small town means hearing the stories, myths, hauntings and legends of days gone by. In Yarmouth, it means having pride in the fact that the Christmas classic, “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas” was written in, on, around, about or across the street from our very own Grand Hotel. (Maybe. Probably. More than likely.)
Small town life also meant splashing in the fountain in the park all summer long when you thought no one was watching. That is, until they put up a sign warning of electrocution risk.
Growing up in a small town meant Saturday’s with your uncle at one of the two museums in town. It also means returning to those museums with the next generation of family kids 25 years later to see that not one thing has changed. Literally. Not one thing.
Small town life means summer movies on the waterfront, days spent at the used book store (where you can also buy the best egg rolls in town), and running screaming from the adult video section at the movie rental store. But you know, we just had to see what was behind that door.
Small town life means sometimes you just need to look at your same old surroundings with a different eye. It means being thankful for the chance to come back and see what a place truly looks like, brick by brick, smile by smile, bird by bird.