The town we live just north of has a population of 703. This is where we go to the library, bank, post office, hardware store, and grocery store...in that order of frequency. I will say it up front: I've never lived in a community this small, and it really is like getting to know a new subculture. Culturally-speaking, it is the same on a broad spectrum, but distinctive enough to take note. I feel like I have been here long enough now - almost 8 months - to finally begin to grasp more of an understanding of what it means to live in such a tiny community.
Thus far, I have concluded that the worst thing about living in a town this small is: when one makes an ass out of oneself [which I have been known to do on many occasions], you will, without a doubt, see the same people that witnessed your unfortunate event(s) over and over and over again. In fact, you'll probably see them at least once a week. This has vexed me the most, given my inclination for awkward moments, a shrieking over-tired toddler, and attempting to man-handle an unruly stroller around town in the blustery-cold weather afforded by living on Buffalo Ridge. Eeeegads!! In Minneapolis (or any community of substantial size) if I made a jackass out of myself in public, I was easily comforted by the understanding that I would most likely never see those people again. This is regretfully no longer the case. The poor townspeople; and poor me.
Furthermore, strange coincidences and happen-stance collisions are no longer in play: I've realized that I should be expecting everything and everyone to be inter-related. For example, Squeeze saw a sign up at the grocery store labeled "AquaHelp", with a rip-off number at the bottom, for those who are looking for, or to get rid of, aquarium supplies. Squeeze took the number [for those who may not know, Squeeze is an aquarium hobbyist]. The next time I was at the grocery store, I noted that the flyer said, "Ask for Camryn" when calling the number. That is when I started realizing that it was probably a homeschool project. But is gets funnier: I was invited to another family's home last week, who also happen to be new in town. The dots did not connect until the other night: I was lying awake in bed when I realized that this family homeschools, the 13 year old daughter's name is Camryn, and 10-gallon tank filled with guppies and an albino African Clawed Frog sits in their living room. Ha-HA! Connected.
I should also say, while I felt complete disdain for our public library last summer, my feelings have softened a bit. Although limited and small, there are perks with having a tiny library. First off, the librarian and I are in contact through email - so if I have any questions or problems, I can just "shoot her an email" [this phrase falls into the category of my most-hated work-related jargon] and she takes care of it. I don't have to fiddle with a system or recorded message. Secondly, I've perused the shelves with a more find-tuned eye and I have found a number of books that are on my Reading List. So while I may not be able to sample like I used to, I can find what I'm interested in if I look closely enough. Furthermore, I don't have to worry about Starbeans running off, because there is nowhere to run off to. Ha! And the children's section, well...I shouldn't have been so hard on it. Finally, the librarian informed me that they are completely open to book suggestions for their quarterly book order. This may be the case in larger libraries as well, but my goodness, this is be-a-utiful. I've already supplied her with a few titles that I think would be an asset to the collection (which I also happen to be dying to read).
I don't think I've ever posted on the grocery store in town, but let me say this: it is a complete blast to the past. You think you've seen an old grocery store?! Come to my town. It will knock your socks off. The flooring is green-and-gray checked tile, straight outta 1961. The outside of the big freezer in the back is walled with beautiful dark hardwood. There are produce signs hanging from the ceiling that are probably older than me. It is very charming and very quaint, and also, unfortunately, almost entirely obsolete for our eating habits. Most of their selection comes tidily packaged in boxes, bags, or cans. Local products include honey, buffalo, and flax seed - and organic? Forget about it! I thought I'd never step foot in the place, but I've come to realize that it, too, has a place in my life. There are things I can buy there that are the same as what I would buy at the grocery store in Big Town, SD, but with less packaging. Like onions and potatoes. Big Town doesn't carry organic varieties either, so it is the same difference - only I don't have to throw a bag away after we are done with them. So I hold back when we are on our big shopping trip, and buy what I can locally. I want support a small-town grocery store, too - even if they sell hardly anything that I would actually eat.
And perhaps once I've lived her long enough, I can start requesting specifics. Or would that put me in the Ass Category, and seem snobbish? I haven't figured that one out yet. I do know that I regret my reaction the first time I went in to our new library. I was so genuinely shocked that I actually asked the librarian, "Is this the library? I mean, there aren't any other rooms...?" Whoops. I know I offended her and seemed crass. Which rhymes with ass.
It has been an interesting half-year. Honestly, in some ways it seems much shorter than that. I often still cannot believe that I live here. As I rode home from "town" the other week, I looked around me and honestly thought, "THIS?? This is where I live?!" Strange, but true, borealis. It will be interesting to see where I am at in another 6 months. I can imagine my picture will be much clearer, even then.
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