There is something so very depressing about living in a small town that is exemplified when you haven’t always done so. A sort of cabin fever that extends beyond the walls of your home and into the confines of the city limits. After driving around running simple errands you start to get the itch for the open road – there grows a demanding need to. Just. Get. Out.
Coming from the city and suburbs of the city I have always dreamed of Small Town America and the iconic quaintness – the peace and quiet allure of no traffic, small shops, and that feeling that everybody knows everybody.
But let me tell you this right now:
I miss Starbucks. As in, I crave it like a basic white girl craves her UGGs. Just coffee or tea that’ll taste just so and will be just the right price and that’s open everyday for a reasonable length of time. To be able to leave my house and sit in a coffee shop where I could write and think and day dream and people watch would cure 90% of the cabin fever I feel at the moment. But the fact of the matter is we have one coffee shop in our town of 6,500 people that is slower than a snail in heat, ungodly expensive for its mediocrity, and closed before I get off work. BUT because we are a small town and everybody knows everybody and they are the only gig to offer the earthy, tantalizing beans they can charge whatever they want, dictate their own hours, and move as slow or as fast as their jocular flirtations with elderly so and so’s allow.
Now imagine this – I have to drive to another state to go to Wal-Mart or Safeway because it is closer than driving to one instate by 60 miles. My husband and I consider this a date. Our nearest big city is in Nebraska and boasts about 15,000 people and while they have ONE good restaurant there and the nation’s smallest Target (I kid you not) they really have nothing else in way of urban convenience or entertainment. Cheyenne (80 miles south of us) has a semblance of a night life, but only in the summer during a random festival. And I don’t even care about night life. I’m not a bar hopper, drink slopper, “Woo” girl. But I like activity. I like seeing people. In the winter out here you stay inside because it’s freezing cold and you’re hunched over as you drive, craggy and distracted by the temperature gage that just keeps dropping. I miss people and being in their presence even if I’m not directly related to them. I love being surrounded by life. The isolation of a small town begins to feel heavy.
The idea of sitting in a book store, sipping tea, sitting on a couch, flipping through a novel while shoppers peruse the shelves hits me like a bullet and suddenly I’m internally bleeding a restlessness that no suture can stem. Or spontaneously going on a date with your husband to some cliche place like Olive Garden suddenly becoming a half day trip when I used to be able to go to the beach in the same amount of time. No, if you want to get out, if you want to break the routine and the normality of your life you can’t just walk down the street in a different direction and eat at an unfamiliar restaurant. Rather, you’ll have to work for it, be committed to it, dedicate your day to just getting out.
Now let me tell you what I’ve gained:
I happened to walk into one of the two floral shops here in town the first week we arrived and it changed my life. Hidden between rows of ribbons and inside coolers of flowers were women of immeasurable love and kindness who wrapped me in the protective cellophane and gentle tissue paper of their family and became my friends. And this family knows everybody. I mean everybody! Their father is close friends with my father’s high school principal. What the heck is that all about? How is that even possible? The gift of their family was immediate and unguarded to such an extent that I would never have found in the city.
In the summer it’s just stunning here and with a short three hour drive you can find yourself deep in the back country of South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, or Colorado. National monuments, parks, and recreation sites litter our highways and fuel the wanderlust of any who feel trapped here. In the summer it doesn’t feel like such an inconvenience to get out and explore, to travel 35 miles to eat at a good restaurant or go on a date. It’s the winters that bite and hold on tight like a rabid dog and, although long, they host their own levels of beauty if one can escape their natural inclination toward hibernation.