I grew up in a tiny town in Maine with a population of less than 3,000 people.
I was practically raised in the woods. Our closest neighbor lived over a half-mile away, and I remember hopping on my bike and riding to her house barefoot with no helmet and never seeing a single car in all the years I did this.
Going to the only store we had was an adventure. It was located right in the center of town and you had to go through one blinking red stoplight to get there. You were greeted by name.
My sisters and I would spend hours playing in the woods picking berries and building forts. Sometimes we complained of being bored and daydreamed about living in a city where we could walk to the movies, the local pool, or hop on a train where we would see hundreds of new faces.
But I did love my childhood. I enjoyed the slow, free, peaceful way of life that came with our small-town life — so much so that instead of packing up and heading to the big city like most of my friends, I went to college in a small town too.
While I have nothing against big cities, I kind of love that I am raising my kids in the same setting I was raised. In fact, we built a house a few miles away from the house I grew up in, and that same stoplight and store are still the center of town; nothing has really changed in over 30 years.
I know some people may think small-town living lacks adventure, but I find it to be calming. I never could get used to the sound of traffic or lots of close neighbors. To me, a small town is the best of both worlds: We have views of trees and can hear every bird each morning, but we can make it to the nearest (much bigger town) in under 10 minutes.
And so what if we can’t order pizza or Chinese food and have it delivered? There is no traffic, well, unless you have to stop and wait for the cows or family of turkeys to cross the road.
The cost of living is lower than a bigger city. There is more gas money involved to get the things you need, but it doesn’t touch what we would spend on things like daycare, taxes, and mortgage payments or rent.
The houses aren’t very close together, so there is more privacy as well as open spaces. You can walk around naked, if you wish. I also find peace in knowing whether my kids throw around a baseball or hit a golf ball, it isn’t going to smash anyone’s windows except for mine.
We have small schools which is beneficial to my children. They learn better in smaller classrooms, and I am able to reach out to teachers by grabbing them after school to touch base or when I see them at the market, wherever.
Because there aren’t a ton of lights from streets or tall buildings, the stars are absolutely stunning. I love going out at night and looking at them. And when the fireflies are out, it literally looks like there are tiny strobe lights sprinkled all over our yard.
My kids have to entertain themselves a lot. They have friends on our street, but it doesn’t mean someone else is available to play all of the time. They have mastered the art of getting creative and staying outside, and I know they are creating fantastic memories, just as I did.
Everyone knows me and everyone knows my kids, just as I know which kids belong to which parents. And we are quick to let each other know if our kids are being assholes or good citizens. I often remind my kids just because I don’t see their every move while they are out and about, someone else surely will, and they will tell me all about it (and half the town), in great detail.
Sometimes we travel to a nearby city and dance in the street, try different food, and meet new people, and I think, maybe I could move away from my small town. But then we get home and my kids hop on their bikes, there is a deer in my backyard, or the neighbor comes over for a cup of sugar because she doesn’t want to make the trip to town and we are up talking for over an hour, and I realize I will always be a small-town girl.
My kids can move to the city when they are older if they wish, but our home will always be here.