I come from a small dot on the map. I live in an area where everyone knows you by name, sales at the grocery store are more exciting than Black Friday and the grand opening of Walmart called for an appearance by the high school marching band (yes - that really happened). It's a little slice of heaven that everyone talks about leaving, but ultimately is where they decide to raise their family.
A place like this might not be for everyone, but it certainly is for me.
Last year around this time, a new community center opened its doors in our town - and no, the marching band didn't make an appearance this time. But, expectedly, the town went nuts. There was a big event for the community to take tours of the new, beautiful facility. The local county fair queens greeted you at the door, staff members walked you through the different amenities and photographers were right and left snapping shots of all the place had to offer.
Just the other night, I was walking into the community center for an evening work out. As I was getting out of the car, I heard my name from across the parking lot. I turned around to find four people waving to me that I hadn't seen since high school. I stopped and talked to the group for a little while before I walked inside.
As I was tying my shoes, another individual came up and said hi. She asked me about my job, if I was keeping up with photography and how I liked living back in my hometown. We stopped and talked for a couple minutes before she walked out the door and I jumped on the treadmill.
Lastly, as I was leaving the building a while later, the woman at the counter called me over, asked me how my workout was and wished me a good night. As I was getting into my car, I stopped and smiled.
This is the quintessential example of life in a small town. People care and take the time to tell you so. Sometimes it might seem nosy, but more often than not, it's a community of genuine people. Everyone has a big heart and a pleasant smile. The smallest of accomplishments are front page news in the local paper and big events like the county fair or the opening of a new business nearly shut down the rest of town.
It's funny to look back and think of when I was younger. There was a time when I, too, couldn't wait to get out of this place. I went off to school for four years in the big, scary Twin Cities, and I found that that sense of community was a little bit harder to find. While I found that community in the friendships I made and the faculty I interacted with, I missed the little things that make living in a small town so special.
It's a town where you count down the days until the Friday night fish fry. It's a town where farmers gather at the co-op gas station for a cup of coffee and gossip after morning chores. It's the town that, while you have to drive 45 minutes to get to a mall, going shopping every couple months is a full-day event. The only traffic jam we know of is 20 cars driving behind a tractor and the only sold-out concert we really care about is the local cover band singing on a Saturday night.
It might be a small dot on a map. It might be a place where everyone knows everything about everybody. It might only be the place on I-94 that some people occasionally stop for gas or a bite to eat.
But, to me, it's home.