Until recently, I've never lived in a town with a population fewer than 100,000. Chattanooga, Green Bay, Columbus, the Twin Cities. I was used to the comfort of large communities--the ease with which to find exactly what you were looking for (yarn, camera accessories, vegetarian alternatives are among some of the few I immediately miss). I never thought I'd live somewhere so small.
Our move from Chattanooga to the Midwest was surprising enough. We lived in Green Bay for my high school years, and though I miss some of the people there, I do not miss the city itself. It was like a lopsided suburb--so much infested with chains and the community in what struck me as a racist uproar, wanting English to become its official language. And the obsession with the Packers.
When I met K, I knew he enjoyed growing up in a small town just outside of Green Bay. I didn't know what it was like to live in a community without a post office, where farm and cows stretch for miles. I could imagine what it might be like to mail order so much of what you wanted, unless you felt like a long Sunday drive, and it wasn't entirely appealing. I needed buildings to crane up at, unique markets, a bevy of people moving about on the sidewalks.
I suppose that's what makes this place a compromise. We live on a corner just a dozen blocks from the Mississippi, maybe nine blocks from downtown, and in the winter, we need to act quickly with the clearing of our sidewalks or the footprints from traffic will lead us to long hours scraping away at ice. I can walk to my favorite places: the library, the post office, the organic market, the florist, the framing gallery, our regular pub, several sandwich and coffee shops, the bookstore, the baker, the theatre (I can keep going, but I will stop at that). Our population is just over 16,000, which marks this as the smallest town in which I've ever lived, and K protests: "This is a CITY." Technically, yes, but I can't help but call it a small town. I'm not used to planting corn in my summer garden. I'm used to containers on my porch, miniature eggplant and green peppers for my salads.
When Emily and I went to the poetry reading on Thursday, we touched briefly on the idea of duality: there is a part of us that is thrilled with the house with the fenced in yard, the dogs romping about, the future husband to cook with, to curl up in our multiple bedroomed houses with our bookcases and dining rooms and dens and this picture of domesticity that has room for gardens and bikes and a two car garage. There is another part of us that has a fantasy: pack it all up, just the essentials (books, some clothing, a futon, and a laptop) and have a tiny one bedroom apartment in Uptown Minneapolis, go to coffeeshops, write poetry on napkins, shop used bookstores long after the sun has gone down, buy tiny pieces of expensive local art for the crowded bathroom walls. We admitted this little fantasy self, the kind of life we could smoothly fit into, could see ourselves doing, would be impossible with our fiances. We'd have to be that single girl with many adventures ahead of us. For me, this is because K hates the city, would not move to the Twin Cities even if I begged for long periods of time, which saddens me because I always wanted to stay in the city.
But I find myself falling in love with here. This small town, with its own paintings for our moderately sized (and still very quirky) bathrooms, may do the trick. It feels a little more lonely here, but next year, I'll have a job six minutes from this building we are learning to call home.
And (thankfully) the city is only an hour away.
3 hours ago