There is something to be said about the charms of a city. For our anniversary this year, my husband and I visited the bustling metropolis of nearby Charlotte, NC and we were blown away by the beauty of it. From the gorgeous views we took in at our rooftop restaurant to the shops and movie theaters we had such instant access to, everything seemed larger than life but within arm’s reach all at once. It was thrilling and so fun and I’ll never forget that weekend. Yet, after two days we both agreed we were ready to go back home.
Just where is home, you might ask? It’s about two hours away, nestled between cornfields and ball fields. I met my husband when I was 15 and he was 16 and we’ve both never known any other childhood locale. We went to the same schools, ate at the same local diners and attended the same football games on Friday nights. That our paths crossed isn’t a mystery, as we were also both interested in the same things: theater, sports and literature.
After spending our high school years together, he went off to school in another big local city, Raleigh, NC, while I finished up my senior year. I followed him there that next August and we spent three great years together, walking to coffee shops, dining out more than any broke college kids probably should, and going downtown to the museums, theaters, and concert halls as often as we could. It was a great experience, but again, we knew it was short-lived and that was fine by us.
We’d already made plans to come back home after graduation and put down roots on the first plot we found. For all of its boredom and restrictions, there’s something incredibly comforting about our small town and we knew instinctively it would make a great place to start a family. We found a place a few minutes away from both of our parents and haven’t looked back since. So much has changed since we first left, but there’s still enough of the same to make it feel like home. They can change the name of the diner, recoat the water tower, and rezone the school districts but you can’t erase three decades of memories and more to make on the way. When the weather is nice, we take the kids in the stroller and put our pup on a leash and head down to the football field to walk around the track.
As we do, we reflect on our first time here and daydream about what this town will mean to our kids. Our hope is that it will nourish and enrich them in many of the same ways it did us. They don’t have to do the same things we did and in fact, we’d love it if they forged their own path. Will they love acting and baseball like their dad, or set design and cheerleading like their mom? If not, what new and exciting interests will they discover as they head down their own journeys? In a place like our small town, there’s open air and open fields and room enough to breathe and figure those big questions out.
Of course, such a life is completely possible in a big city as well. It’s all what you’re used to and what makes you comfortable. For us, it’s a bonfire at midnight with friends and family gathered around. It’s chicken stew in the fall and strawberry patches in the summertime. It’s three churches on one short street and houses lined up with fences on the side of the road.
Many of my friends from high school left here and never looked back. They found jobs, spouses and happiness elsewhere and laugh when I call them with stories about the community pool raising its fees or the preschool closing for a light dusting of snow. For all their playful ribbing though, we can’t argue with the fact that life in a small town is one of the sweetest, and biggest, adventures imaginable.