By Eve W. Engle

The dogs rule in our house. They are fed first, allowed in our bed, have their own bed in the guest room and sneak up onto the sofas when we aren't looking. Maxie, short for Maximus, is a Golden Retriever/Great Pyrenes mix, Sammy is a Black Lab/Border Collie mix. His full name is Samuel L. Jackson after one of my favorite actors. Both were abused and rescued from their former owners. They get cookies every morning.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Small Towns and Quiet Lives

        Why do young people think that in order to have an exciting and successful life you have to live someplace that offers expensive entertainment, shopping and constant activity? Or that in order to believe a prospective job is worth seeking it has to be located in a town of over 100,000 people?

        Once upon a time I think I was like that. But I have downsized my town and lived a progressively more quiet life in recent years. The college town I live in today has about 55,000 people in it, which is about 10,000 more than when I moved here 11 years ago, and 50,000 less than the town I left. There is plenty to do if you care to seek it out.

        I will agree that it would be a sight easier here to go out and do things if I were college age, half of a couple with young children, retired, or wealthy. But there was a time I was all those things, except retired of course, and wealthy is a relative term. I was once a poor college student who worked parttime and still found the money to buy clothes and shoes and stuff for my apartment as well as a beer and a burger or a movie ticket. But there were always get together's at someone's apartment or an invitation to go to the lake, or a free concert. Then I was married and had kids and we did all the family, kid related stuff. We went to ball games and church programs. We went camping with the scouts. And we mostly hung out with other couples with kids. Later I was "well off" enough to go to concerts and to join a gym. I could buy expensive dresses and jewelry and shoes and have my hair cut, permed or dyed by someone else. I could afford a membership in the art museum. And I could actually afford to take a vacation once in a while. I could sign my boys up for music lessons, Cub Scouts, baseball, basketball and other sports, I could donate to the United Way and my church and not think twice about it. And I could go to dinner and a movie all in one evening. But we were so busy and there were so many choices in the larger town it was too hard to choose which things to do without feeling like you missed something or that your bank account was suffering. Most of the time we just stayed home!

        Then I found myself divorced and everything changed. Every penny counted. I began to appreciate thrift stores and yard sales. Free concerts are great if you have time, but I am a public librarian which means working full time including nights and weekend days and most of those activities always seemed to be scheduled when I was at the library.  My kids grew up and did their own thing with their peers and eventually moved to their own places. Little by little I began to lose interest in going anywhere other than to the comfort of my own abode. Things like reading, writing, and quilting and the company of my dogs began to appeal to me more than loud concerts, noisy bars, crowded stores and restaurant food.

        Sometimes I long to be even further out in the country and away from the traffic in this little town!

        Recently I began to look for an assistant. About 200 people applied for the position. Most weren't qualified. A few looked good but their degrees or resumes clearly indicated they would prefer something in their field and this would be a temporary situation until something opened up in their own area. But there was a small group that had what I was looking for: knowledge of the materials, programming ability, and enthusiasm for the children and students. I found the perfect applicant. Great interview. Great qualifications. Turned me down - the town was too small and there wasn't enough to do. I found another. Same problem. Found another. Ditto.

        How bizzarre. My town in two hours away from two major cities, 45 minutes away from two large military bases, and only 4 hours away from both the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. It's a college town so there are FREE concerts, great eateries, and a quite a few watering holes. Locally there are a roller skating rink and a bowling alley and an ice rink is only 45 minutes away. We boast an art museum, theatre productions, an orchestra, community choirs, ballet, horseback riding, and there are two large lakes close by.

Some day they will know what I know: it isn't the size of the town that matters, it's what you decide to do while living there.

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