Friday 5: Small Town Lessons

I wanted to rant about the robots inhabiting my website but recently found myself, along with our son, back in my hometown for a visit. So, today, instead of angry, I just feel grateful. I know that might seem new and maybe even boring, but it happens. The robots will wait until I am jaded again. Trust me, they will wait.

I think I was always supposed to live in a big city. Toronto is just the right size and I love almost everything about it. Growing up in what some might consider a small town (100,000 people in the middle of nowhere) has taught me how to live in a city.

  1. Kindness: I think a small town teaches people how to love thy neighbour. You don’t actually have to love them (referring to my previous post) but you care how they are, you help if you can, you commiserate when required and you put down the smart phones and relate. My neighbour back home bakes us cookies every time we come around because she knows we love them. Growing up my dad was single, she was widowed and they took care of each other. He fixed her appliances, she stirred cookie batter for him. OMG! I just read that back… I hope they didn’t take “care” of each other. So weird.
  2. Appreciation: I appreciate the variety of great restaurants at my disposal in Toronto. I appreciate the transit, the access to everything from laser tag to apple picking. If I had had all that Toronto has to offer growing up, I might take it for granted now. When I head out on the subway I am grateful. Then I cover myself in Purell and I am even more grateful. When I go to a ball game or to see the Leaf’s lose, I am grateful for the opportunity. When the Toronto mayor smokes crack, it rolls off my back as I am already versed in local politics turned international. Thunder Bay’s mayor once tapped the Queen on her ass. His name is Walter Assef. Not lying. I just appreciate that both mayors were known for no nonsense and getting things done and that is what really mattered.
  3. Everybody knows your business: That may sound like a disadvantage, and I am sure that it is on some level. But when everybody knows, everybody cares. I was in a store in Thunder Bay this week and they asked me how my grandfather was doing. Not because they are nosy, but because they had heard about him being in hospital and were concerned. Think of all of that. They recognized me, called me by name and asked about my family. That is kind of cool. So when someone in the big city is a “nosy neighbour” I take it in stride. I know that when our car in unexpectantly not in the driveway they will call. I know that when our timing lights were going on during the day, they will notify me. I am grateful that when we had a family emergency they closed my garage, locked my doors and followed up to ensure everything was fine. I didn’t think them intrusive or nosy. I felt like they cared and it made me feel good.
  4. Life can be easy: There is less pressure to keep up with the Joneses in a small town. Even though the Joneses lived on our street and were the people to keep up with, I never really got the irony until I moved out. My favourite line in John Mellencamp’s song Small Town is “People let me be just what I want to be.”. I can head out the door in sweatpants and a bandana (sorry, that’s my dad) jeans and a ratty t-shirt with my pedicure a wreck and I am not at all self-conscious. That is a gift. I think I worry less than some people I know who grew up in Toronto what the neighbours think. I don’t even bat an eye taking out the rubbish in my jammies and talking to a neighbour out walking the dog while there. I may be being judged, but I don’t much care and the conversation was more important to me anyway.
  5. The important things are free: Our families. Our laughs. All free. Watching my 98-year-old grandfather recover from a stroke to be in better shape than I am. Free. Having our son say the highlight of his trip to Thunder Bay was not the trampoline park but watching his Umpa race down the hall showing us how a walker can be a runner because his walking pace is just that fast. Free. Sitting in my backyard watching our kids play together and laugh. Free. I know that appreciating time well spent with family is all I really need to regenerate, no matter the setting.

I am so very grateful to have mine and Mister’s family primarily in Thunder Bay. Although they all picked on me for having a selfie stick (I know, I know! How else am I ever going to get in any family photos though?) I enjoyed every exhausting minute.

If you grew up in a small town, what lessons do you carry with you? Do tell!



  1. I love “nosy” neighbors too. And I’m usually pretty nosy as well, but the good and bad nosy. Nice reflective post, Kristine. Yeah, they (reflective, more serious posts) happen sometimes. What’s up with that? 🙂

  2. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so…not in a small town. But I moved to the southern US a few years ago (again not to a small town!)–and the people here are so much friendlier and helpful. They chat in doctor’s office waiting rooms, stop to help you if your car breaks down instead of just honking, and just sort of assume when they meet someone for the first time that the person is going to be worth knowing. Yes, I’m making huge generalizations and of course there are exceptions. I was really dreading leaving California and moving to this part of the country, but it turns out I really like it here. So I think understand what you’re talking about.

    I’m glad you had a good time at home, and that you’ve managed to find some small townish people in the city. And it’s your blog, so you don’t have to apologize about not being ranty and stabby.

  3. I feel like I missed something not growing up in a small town. Living in the suburbs meant having friendly but not necessarily nosy neighbors. What I feel I missed is a certain degree of independence. My mother had to drive my friends and I everywhere we wanted to go, at least until we were old enough to drive. We could have had greater independence–and access to more cool stuff–living in the heart of the city, but I think of things like being able to walk to the corner store to buy comic books. On the plus side we had some large vacant lots around that passed as woods where we could have all sorts of adventures.
    Christopher recently posted…The People You Meet.My Profile

    • We were constantly on our bikes and had the rule to be home when the street lights came on. No find my iPhone, just trust that we were not being stalked by pedophiles. Good times. Thanks for stopping by.

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