Growing up in a small, Midwestern town in the 1980s and ’90s came with some universal truths. It was a simple life, one you can never escape, even if you wanted to. Now, no matter where you go, small town will always run in your blood. Here are five truths about growing up in a small town:
1. People think you know everyone.
If you’re from a large city and you meet someone new, chances are they won’t say, “My friend is from New York City too! Do you know each other?”
But, when you’re from a small town and you meet someone new, you get asked all the time, “Do you know so and so?”
They could be from a neighboring town even, but the assumption about a small town is everyone knows everyone. And most likely you will know the person in question because you went to school with their cousin.
2. You grew up around bars and churches.
The small town I grew up in had a Main Street where every other building was a bar. Everyone’s parents went there on hot days for a cold beer and to shoot the breeze. You bellied up to the bar for your first kiddie cocktail before you could ride a bike.
On Sundays, we went to church. You could expect to see your friends from school there with their families. Maybe afterward, you got to stop for doughnuts or go out for brunch.
3. At some point in your adolescence, you wished to be from anywhere except a small town.
You felt like you didn’t belong, like there had to be more to this world than the corner store and community pool. You cursed your parents for choosing this tiny dot on the globe to raise a family.
You thought everyone around you was small-minded, and you couldn’t find a single person in that small town that really “got” you.
Of course, now you find yourself connecting with fellow small town folk because they “get” it.
4. You were a stupid teenager.
When you’re a teenager in a small town, there isn’t much in the way of youth entertainment. So you did stupid stuff, like get drunk, smoke cigarettes or climb the town’s water tower. The party was at whomever’s parents were out of town. The beer was supplied by older siblings, or cousins, or ambivalent gas station attendants not too keen on checking IDs.
Looking back you think two things: 1) Thank God Facebook and YouTube had not been invented yet, and 2) I hope my kids don’t do half the stupid crap I did.
5. Taking your kids back to your small town is surreal.
Speaking of your kids, watching them play on the playground you spent hours upon hours at as a kid is like stepping into a time machine. It forces you to compare their childhood to yours. Your parents’ parenting to your own parenting.
Is it best to raise them here in the same small town, send them to the same school you went to (talk about an awkward parent-teacher conference, when your kid’s teacher used to be your teacher!)? Or better to have them grow up at some new address, close by or far, far away?
No matter where you decide to raise your kids, no matter where you end up, your small town roots will always be there. You will always have a keen understanding of small family farms (either because you grew up on one or had close family or friends who did), you will always nod knowingly while watching Footloose, and you’ll never forget that time at the high school football game when….