By the time I was in twelve, I had moved six times with my family. I had always hated it growing up but now, it’s what I attribute to my love of travel and inability to stay in one place for too long.
When my husband and I got engaged we were both living in Missouri – about five hours apart. I was in the incredible city of Saint Louis – amazing restaurants, a rich history, The Arch, life. I loved living there – there was always something to do.
Matt lived in Maryville. Podunk compared to Saint Louis. It’s a small rural town, in the middle of nowhere, just south of Iowa in the northwest corner of the state – home to the Northwest Missouri State University Bearcats. There’s a movie theatre, three really good restaurants and a bowling alley. When I visited it for the first time, I thought, this is cute but never imagined living there for close to three years.
But we did. At times it was frustrating that the nearest Target was 45 miles away and the nearest DSW was in Kansas City. It drove me crazy that Caribou coffee wasn’t just a 15 minute drive. I hated being 12 hours from Detroit – my “hometown.”
We moved back to Michigan during the summer of 2010 and were relieved to be back in “civilization”: Starbucks every mile, two Targets equidistant from my house, my dad just a call away to come over to help me install the dishwasher, old friends, convenience.
This past weekend, I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to head back to Missouri with Matt to stand up in one of my best friend’s wedding.
About ten hours into our trip, we were beginning to get a little stir crazy – we needed some fresh air and some fresh tunes. As we turned off the interstate – we got on a small state highway – twisty roads, windows down, country music turned up, farm land on either side of us corralling us home…I mean back.
We pulled into town and navigated the small narrow streets to get to campus, our home base for the weekend. As I was driving through campus, a car was coming toward me, so I accelerated so I could get through the rows of parked cars first, he patiently pulled to the side, waved to me and gave Matt a tip of his hat, wearing a happy smile on his face.
Where was I? Had I forgotten all my manners? Had the “big city” made me cold, selfish? This is one of the smallest things that happened to us over the weekend – but it had such an impact on me. Here, at home, when we moved into our neighborhood, full of its own narrow streets, I was appalled at how other drivers navigated them – zipping in and out of parked cars, trying to get through first, using their horn relentlessly. I was sad that no one did the friendly wave or the tip of the hat. Where were our friendly neighbors? Where was common courtesy? And now look at me, what have I become?
The idiosyncrasies of a small town are many – but the good outweigh the bad. Our first night in town – we went to dinner and saw our old colleague and it was as if two years hadn’t passed. In Detroit – we could go out to dinner ten times and not know a soul. While our families were far away – we had built a different kind of family who sincerely supported us and genuinely loved us. While I was looking for beauty in big buildings and big cities – I missed the beauty of gently rolling hills, sunsets that spanned the horizon for miles, and the gorgeous farmlands. While I frequently cursed the small town – I now curse the traffic and that it takes me an hour to get to the bank, post office and coffee shop that used to take me ten minutes on a bad day.
I never thought I would miss Maryville – and I didn’t until we went back this weekend. An incredible town, full of our loving home-made families and very happy memories. Reflecting back on our time this weekend I am reminded of this quote from Ernest Hemingway, “never write about a place until you’re away from it, because that gives you perspective.”