Listen to this post
“Did you see that someone found your glasses downtown?” a friend asks before informing me that a sign posted on the corner light post had the information I needed to retrieve them. There was no question in her mind that the specs had to be mine.
“I think someone found your missing key,” a friend said dryly, as she remembered a recent conversation about my dogged search for a single key.
These two reminders of one of my most frustrating flaws put themselves on my list of reasons I continue to like small-town life. I like the closeness of the community, the recognition of each person as a unique individual. Then again, both conversations could lead me to put that familiarity on the top of the other list — my reasons I don’t like living in a small town.
I’ve always liked the family feel of the town and it never has made me feel as if I was being watched. People who grew up here tell me they have placed familiarity on their pro and con lists as well. They say, though, that once you move away for a little while and come back, the community treats you as though you never left. It could be because some of the people who never left are exactly the same as they were years ago. It creates confusion.
To know, know, know, you is to love, love, love you is a refrain from a ‘50s classic by the Teddy Bears that comes to mind. Then again, taken out of context of a close personal relationship, it doesn’t really fit. That is when too much familiarity is overkill. In a small community, where everyone knows you, you can’t go to the grocery store, the post office, or anywhere without someone stopping to chat. Even those who have lived here for years and years are heard to complain occasionally about this issue. I am often asked why I stayed.
“Doesn’t it bother you that you can’t avoid living in a fish bowl?” more than one of my friends asked. They kept saying how they knew they could never put up with everyone knowing everything about everybody. One longtime resident has a different take on the issue.
“Its not living in a fishbowl really, more like an aquarium.” This viewpoint holds that the different shaped container, while usually larger than a bowl, has enough room for a little variety in populations. There always seem to be a few of all kinds of different species. Some of those species generate more attention than others, whether it be their coloring, size, or type of fish. The attention is often drawn away from the average goldfish. Well, that is one way of looking at it, I guess.
Running into a hometown boy who moved back a few years ago, I was surprised when he asked if I left for a while. He seemed surprised that I had stayed. I didn’t ask him why, but assumed that he just didn’t expect someone who didn’t grow up here or have family ties in the area to stay so long. Sometimes there is no explanation for what makes one place feel like home to one person and a foreign country to another. Or it could be that I do like life in a fishbowl, I have always been a bit of a ham. Put me in an aquarium and I might feel overlooked.