I write about small towns. Both my parents came from small towns, and I spent much of my childhood visiting family and friends in small communities. Since August, though, I’ve lived in a small town. It’s a place where my roots run deep but, like every other aspect of our Canadian repatriation it is, yet isn’t familiar.
Where everybody knows your name
Or rather, they don’t. They know the names of everybody who lived in your house since it was built, and are even related to some of them.
While they want to get to know you, they remain perplexed as to why you moved from the UK, and why English Rose is the only member of the family with an English accent.
Where everybody knows everybody else
In my new small-town life, the usual degrees of separation don’t apply.
The man who came to check our water meter is married to the woman in the town water department we met the day before at the municipal office.
The woman who runs the community Welcome Wagon program, who also works at the municipal office, greeted English Rose at the library knitting group.
The teenage boy who cuts our grass is the grandson of our next door neighbour. However, when seeking someone to clean the gutters, I called a telephone number in a newspaper advert. To my surprise, I reached the grass cutter’s dad, and neighbour’s son-in-law.
Family on call
After fifteen years of having no family nearby, it’s riches indeed to have family in the same town, and more family only a short drive away.
It’s special to walk into the local artisan bakery and chat with my cousin and her husband behind the counter.
It’s even more special to have help with everything from making and hanging curtains, to celebrating family and seasonal events.
In our small town, the leisure centre has two large ice rinks and, as winter approaches, the Friday and Saturday night family skating sessions are where friends and neighbours gather. These rinks are also well used for ice hockey practices and games.
Ice-based activities are a serious business here. As I watch an increasingly confident English Rose glide across the ice at her weekly “learn to skate” lesson, I’m reminded of my mother, a keen skater, who first laced up her skates on an outdoor rink just down the road.
A little less foreign…day by day
We’re making friends here and English Rose is settling into her new school. When we go for walks, we know people (and their dogs!) by name. Driving around town, we wave when we pass family and new friends.
As the leaves on the maple trees take on a brilliant autumn palette of red, orange and yellow, I’m reminded of what our realtor said during our house-hunting visit last spring. “You belong here.”
It was a statement, not a question, and day by day, I, and we, do.