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Life in a small town

By MIMI BECKER

Coffee with Mimi

We live in a small town. There is no denying it. There are big towns and small ones and we chose to live in a small one. When we decided to move to this small town with our young family, our big town friends were concerned. What would we do? Where would the children go to school? What medical choices would we have? What would we find to enrich our lives and the lives of our children?

The children’s paternal grandparents were pretty sure we were ruining our lives. Translation: we were taking the grandchildren, who were currently living about one mile from their loving and doting grandparents, almost two hours away. They were accustomed to spur-of-the-moment adventures to shop, get ice cream, cookout, hang out.

Now, as a grandparent myself, can’t say I blame them for their attitude. But, we moved. It was, truthfully, easier for me than I am admitting. The children’s maternal grandparents — my parents — lived in this chosen small town. Less than 1 mile from the home we bought and still live in.

We chose our new home very intentionally. We had very specific criteria for our purchase. It must have a big yard and a fireplace in the living room, features we enjoyed in our first home. We really wanted a big kitchen and a main-floor laundry room, features we didn’t have in our first home. And, we absolutely, if at all possible, wanted a home right in the middle of this small town.

Both my husband and myself had been very involved in activities growing up. We wanted our own children to have those same opportunities. Five years into life as parents who both worked outside the home, we had engaged in a few well chosen activities for the children, which were age-appropriate and manageable.

We played mini-versions of team sports, visited the zoo and other kid-friendly sites often. We exposed the children to adventures I never had as a child, but were part of daily life for many in a large town.

One memorable experience was riding a city bus. One spring break day, I was a teacher, so with a free day for me and no day care needed for the children, I decided a ride on a bus was a good way to spend a morning. I was not foolish enough to think a round trip was within the realm of possibility for a stress free, pleasant experience. Our house was close to a bus stop; we could walk there. I made sure I had the exact change needed for the fare. I arranged for my father-in-law to meet us at the end of the route with car seats installed in his car and chose a direct, express bus to downtown.

We had two children at the time. They were 3 and 1. One was very verbal and the other a good listener. We plopped ourselves in seats chosen by the 3-year-old and settled in. An endless stream of questions from the 3-year-old commenced immediately. What is that? Can we go see that? Why is the bus stopping here? And on and on.

Inanimate objects and locations were not the only subjects of inquiry. Passengers joining the trip who were brave enough to select a seat near us, or had no choice in the mid-morning rush, were fair game for the inquisition. Where are you going? Why are you going there? What is in your bag? Mommy, why is she wearing a coat, it’s not cold outside?

Some questions bordered on embarrassing and required quite diplomatice choices in my response. I steeled myself thinking we would likely never see these same people ever again. Some passengers politely played along, some offered gruff replies and some were disinclined to join in. Some were more enthusiastic in engaging in conversation, possibly because they could see their own stop approaching quickly, so why not chat with a persistent 3-year-old for a couple minutes.

The children don’t remember this experience and, as small town residents, never needed to rely on public bus transportation. But in exchange, we got a life where it is a five-minute walk to the pool where our children participated in a swim team for years. They could walk to elementary school and high school. The middle school and our family business were minutes away by car. Other chosen activities were similarly close by. This may have been counterproductive sometimes as we would let time slip by, necessitating a rush to make kick-off or warm-ups, often forgetting needed equipment. Not to worry, it’s only a couple minutes back home.

Our children had many opportunities available over the years. As parents, we could offer those activities and participate more frequently ourselves since we gained about two hours a day not driving to and from, navigating traffic clogged streets.

One city bus ride was a fun experience for a couple little kids. But we chose to live in a small town. There are plenty wonderful experiences available just around the corner.