Friday, April 03, 2009

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

One thing that's been interesting about living in semi-small town Connecticut is the "Norm factor." Paths cross. People know each other.

For example, one time I was in a park, and I kept seeing this familiar couple. "Who are they? How do I know them?" I racked my brain until I remembered that they ran our favorite pizza place.

For over a year now I've been going to the dry cleaner that is between our home and Kyle's school. Terry is sort of restless on the weekends, and so in spite of the fact that I could go there easily several times a week, he often ends up dropping clothes off on Saturdays. The dry-cleaner knows us by name. He knows both of us, and knows that we go together, even though he's never seen us together.

This is totally foreign to me, having grown up in the massive-sprawl of Houston suburbia. It's so dense and so fluid that no one knows anyone. Oh, sure you might have a relationship with your hairdresser or manicurist. You probably know the school secretary, but it's different.

Case in point: we've lived here almost five years now. This winter Terry and I had some concerns about the well pump (which is also completely foreign territory for us). I called the service company whose sticker was on some of the equipment in the house. I gave him the address, and he said, "Oh, that was the "Smith's" house, right? It's down toward the end of the road next to the yellow one?"

Okay, how in the world would this guy remember that? Yes, he installed the well, but it was over fifteen years ago. He may have done service on it, or on one of the neighbor's, but again -- it was over fifteen years ago.

This has happened more than once with service providers, and it never fails to amaze me and remind me that instead of living among a densely-packed suburb of 45,000 (suburb to the 4th largest city in the U.S. of four million), I live in a large and rambling town (area-wise) of only about 25,000 (which is twenty minutes away from the "big city" of only 80,000), many of whom have lived here forever. In fact, half of them can volunteer this fact as well: "Your neighbor had that landscape business, right?" That business was defunct by the time we moved in -- five years ago -- and yet they all know this.

Another case in point: my daughter's elementary school bus driver has been driving this bus route for years. And when I say years, I mean that I've met people who say he was their bus driver in elementary school. Those people now have children who are riding his bus. When we were having some work done to our lawn, he commented on the sign in the hard, because the owner of the business used to ride his bus.

There are things that suburbia lacks, and things that we would never have experienced in the master-planned-community South. In Texas, rural is -- to put it bluntly -- hick or country (and not country as in wide-open spaces -- country as an upbringing). Here, there are small towns all over the state that offer the benefits of commuting to work, but having a smaller school system, and the sense of pride that comes with the kind of identity that these communities offer. We love the ability to experience the best of both worlds.

It's why we can't image moving back -- in spite of family and friends and a much (MUCH) lower cost of living. These are just a few of the reasons that we've come to see this little corner of Connecticut as home.


amykiane said...

i can only imagine it's an adjustment moving to a small town. i grew up in a rural southern community where everyone knew you and my school was Kindergarten through 12th grade. I only had 44 people in my senior class. once i married i actually moved up to a town of 15,000 and it's like you described. it's does have its downside, but all in all it's a good thing. :)

Jen Robinson said...

Clicking through to say thanks for the full feeds! Your post kind of made me want to live in a small town, I have to say.

Wendy said...


You and I need to connect somehow...I also live in a similar town (in CT)...and it sounds like you love to read as much as I do.

I just recently came across the 5 Minutes for Moms sites and am so glad I did.

My email:

~ Wendy

Andrea said...

I'm here!! love your new site. It's been ages since I've seen your page since I admittedly read through bloglines.....
I appreciate your take on living in the NE. I am also from the South, but not big time suburbia and there are aspects that I miss. I can be grumpy about the NE.
where do you all live in CT? you can email me..
i know it has to be close to me...
i am still here, reading, even though I don't comment nearly enough!!

Beck said...

Aw. We live in an actual small town - under 1000! - and everyone literally DOES know us. And all of our business. You do get used to it after a while!

Dad said...

You expressed extremely well what we were feeling in Texas when Terry took the job in Manhattan.
We are very happy that you all are so content in CT.
WOW, Wendy and Andrea above are a lot like you. Wendy writes beautifully.

Susan said...

It sounds wonderful! I grew up in a town like that, and now I'm in the "big suburb" where nobody knows me - it's lonely :( My big problem moving to the NE would be the liberalism (we're very conservative) - or maybe that's just my stereotype?? Anyway, I enjoyed reading your thoughts. Thanks also for paying me a visit!

Lisa writes... said...

We too love the small town life where if everyone doesn't know your name they at least know someone who does! It's very different from the big city suburbia i grew up in but I do not miss it at all! Now, Target on the other hand is a different story...

Katrina @ Callapidder Days said...

That sounds so neat.

We live in a fairly rural area, but it's so spread out that there's no real "town" and not much connection. And we're close enough to some large suburbs that we run into that too... Kind of a weird in-between.

My rule, though, is that I like rural-ish places, but I must be somewhat close to a Panera, a Starbucks, and a large bookstore. :)