I’ve got a thing for small towns. That wasn’t always the case. Soon after finishing my English degree at Michigan State University, I moved to Chicago, where I felt excited by the constant construction of new buildings, and a bus or an L train that could take me anywhere to eat anything, do anything, see anything. I ate Ethiopian food, went to the Mexican Museum for the Day of the Dead exhibit, and had an ever changing pick of live performances to attend. But I also had traffic, long lines, and views that typically went only to the other side of the street, and an anonymity that city life often creates.

People in big cities don’t acknowledge people they don’t know. On a recent trip to New York City to visit my nephew, he told us to NOT talk to people in Times Square, and NOT make eye contact with strangers on the train. And just about everybody is a stranger. When I taught school in Chicago, I never ran into my students or their parents while I was out shopping or exploring the city. Never. But here in the small town world, it isn’t that way. And the difference is that in small towns, we see people multiple times and sometimes in multiple places. The woman at the dog park might show up in my exercise class or my mailman might be behind me in the grocery checkout lane. Or maybe my teacher friend’s husband might be good buddies with my neighbor. In a small town we are all interconnected somehow. And that just doesn’t happen in the city. Not in my experience.

Since moving to a small town, I’ve discovered what I call the “Small Town Wave.” When I’m driving in my neighborhood, anyone driving past me gets a wave, as does any neighbor outside in their yard. And then there’s the nod, which can be ultra subtle. I nod at anyone I make eye contact with. Especially the guy that lets me into a tight line of traffic, or the guy holding the sign that says “Slow.” The nod says, I see you.

I have a theory that our eyes need to look at far distances, that it relaxes the eye muscles so to speak. I don’t think it’s documented by science, but just makes sense to me. When driving down a county road I can see deep into fields of beans or corn, and sometimes behind that a tree line. And what about the small town sky? The sky in the early morning and at sunset has so many beautiful colors in it. The clouds are just amazing when there are no skyscrapers blocking them.

There’s so much to see in the countryside. On my drive to and from my neighborhood I pass through a narrow road lined by fields. I often see animals there, especially if it is dusk or early morning. I turn off my car radio and sometimes roll my windows down and lower my speed. I don’t want to miss what’s out there. For a while I saw a groundhog I named Chester, who seemed to be crossing the road at the same spot each time I saw him. Just on the edge of the field I often see a family of turkeys, the momma in front and about a dozen babies waddling behind her. At dusk the deer come out. Fawns with their tiny white spots, yearlings, and mommas. The other day I saw a young buck with horns about the size of my fingers. One year we often saw a deer with a broken front leg. We named her Isabella and the following year saw her with a fawn. This is the kind of thing that brings joy to my heart.

So despite all of the excitement in a big city, after it’s all said and done, I’m just a small town girl. I want the connection that comes with living in a small community, witnessing the beauty of nature, and the camaraderie of those around me.


  1. Hayla Mostrom September 11, 2023 at 8:58 pm - Reply

    I often take for granted the interconnectedness of the small town community. It’s true even with animals as you mentioned…where else do you get to know a “Chester” or “Isabella” in that way? Thank you for your thoughtful post.

  2. Maggie Kubak September 11, 2023 at 9:53 pm - Reply

    Sharon! I feel calmer just reading your post. Thanks, and hope you’re well!

  3. Deb Broderick September 16, 2023 at 2:38 pm - Reply


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