You know you live in a small town when Santa’s sleigh is pulled by an ambulance in the holiday parade, and an entire 3rd grade class is wearing Santa hats.
I have lived in a small town in Wisconsin, a large city in New Mexico, large city in Massachusetts, large city in Oregon, large city of Seattle and smallish town of Bellingham, Washington (80,000), but where I live now is definitely the smallest at around 1100 people.
I looked up the stats, and while median income in Langley is about $15,000 less than the state average (and I earn about $15,000 less than that), median home prices are almost a third higher (2009 values), so you get the picture that many folks bring money to here if they want to buy a home.
One of my favorite stories/memories from when I first moved here a decade ago was walking my daughter in a stroller along a main road, having just left a residential block. A police car pulled up next to us, and I thought, “I just moved here 2 weeks ago – what did I do?” The officer told me a black lab had been following us and someone had called him to check if the dog was bothering us, especially since I had such a young child. Now THAT would happen nowhere else on earth. . . and probably not ever again here either with drastic budget cuts. . . but it is a perfect illustration of what is possible when people look out for one another.
Things like a highly motivated band instructor who transforms children’s lives by offering 5th grade band to any student of any background whether they have ever played an instrument or not. Getting 29 clarinets, 22 trumpets, 10 flutes, and 2 trombones to show up an hour early to school and arrive at the same note. That happens in a small town. Poetry slams and talent shows where everyone applauds consistently and enthusiastically despite a wide range of “talent.” Things like a model food bank system linked to the purchases from a thrift store, transforming wealthier people’s rejects into less wealthy people’s food. Things like folks waving and smiling with such vigor at a complete stranger that you wonder if they could be arrested for the same behavior in another part of the world. . .
Working from home for all but 2 years of my 10 in this small town, my child is my thread to the community. I don’t get out much. The town pretty much shuts down at 8 pm. And I’m starting to like it that way. With my bizarre work schedule, I can go for night walks and fear nothing but the sheep, and I’m grateful for that. I do most anything to avoid the hamster cage of a gym.
After being in Seattle 2005 for my daughter’s hospitalization, returning a year later, readjustment was challenging. I wanted more than anything to leave what seemed stifling and lonely for the action and social buzz of the city. But now I have adjusted in some way and whenever I leave as I did today “across the pond,” I am glad to return.