Sunday, September 26, 2010
I asked one of my old school friends to write a guest post about growing up in a small town. I knew she would have a unique story to tell because she left our small town after graduating high school and now lives in the "big city." Also, she has always been a great writer and I will never forget all the stories she would write about what our lives would one day be like.
For more of her musings, check out on her blog: The Adventures of Vito Marino
I was born in a small town. And I was raised and went to all 13 years
of school in that same small town.
And I could not wait to get out of there!
I was a teenager, itching to get out in to the real world and
experience life outside of the bubble of that town. The bubble where
everyone knew everyone, and in turn, everyone’s business. I was ready
to be able to go to a mall that wasn’t 80 miles away. I wanted to go
to concerts and sporting events without having to make an overnight
trip. If I saw something on tv or in a magazine, I wanted to be able
to go right out and buy it (remember, this was before online
shopping!). And I desperately wanted to meet new people.
I left when I was 18, went to college in a neighboring state. Sweet
freedom! After college I lived in downtown Kansas City for two years
and have now lived in an urban neighborhood in St. Louis for nine
years. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.
Even though I was dying to get out, I knew even then what we had was
special. I can't speak for every small town, but I can speak for
ours. I think the best thing about growing up where we did were the
friendships. The majority of our class was together from Kindergarten
through Senior Year, and I still count some of those people as my best
friends today. We had a bond that you just can't get growing up in
the city while likely changing schools multiple times based on
district boundaries or private schools or a multitude of other
We were bonded even further when one of our best friends, another
classmate since Kindergarten, was killed on our last day of school,
senior year. Our group of friends had gone to a local creek to swim
and celebrate - quintessential small town life. She and another of
our friends left to get sodas for the group. It really was that
innocent. They never returned. There was a car accident and our
friend was killed (the other survived, thank God). That experience
changed us all. Even if we had taken each other for granted in the
past, that made us cling to each other for our last summer together
before everything changed forever. It really made us appreciate each
other and how lucky we were to have grown up together.
Now, the second best thing about growing up in our small town? The
rivers! I bring my city friends to those rivers every summer and they
all agree that we were so lucky to grow up where we did, even if we
didn't appreciate it at the time. It really is beautiful.
My parents and grandparents still live there, but I only go back a few
times a year (once being the big river float trip!). I couldn't
imagine living there again, but I do understand why some people want
to. There's a comfort in familiarity and roots. Even now when I
visit, if I go "into town" for something, it's impossible to do so
without seeing someone I've known (or who has known me) since I was a
But as I said, I never want to live somewhere other than where I live
now. There are a lot of misconceptions about city-living. I think
one of the biggest is that there is no sense of community. I've never
felt more connected to my community than where I live now. It's said
a lot because it's true - St. Louis is really just a big small town.
It's full of beautiful neighborhoods that each have their own appeal,
history, quirks, identities - just like the small towns scattered
through the Ozarks. I never feel disconnected here. I know my
neighbors, I see people I know at the grocery store, and just like
Cheers, the neighborhood taverns do know my name. Cheering for the
Cardinals at Busch Stadium is just like cheering for the high school
football team, except you are doing it with 40,000 neighbors instead
of 400. And speaking of neighbors, two of my friends from that small
town live within a mile of me!
I'm really glad I've had the experience of both environments. A Fall
Friday afternoon with a chill in the air will never not remind me of
high school football games. The smell of a fire will never not remind
me of a "field party" in the middle of the country. And the smell of
chlorine will never not remind me of spending the day at the town pool
and then "cruising" Main Street on a Tuesday night, or just setting up
chairs to hang out in the grocery store parking lot (where else would
that be allowed than a small town?). I'm grateful for my small town
roots and the friends that I still have today (including the host of
this blog who I've, of course, known since we were 5!) and all of the
fun that we had growing up there.