I like small towns.
I grew up between three small towns, out in the middle of farmland (literally: My parents built their house on land my grandfather and his father before him had farmed, on a road my grandfather literally built as a high school summer job). I grew up with a small-town library where the librarian knew me and I knew her, in the sort of place where a party really is a bonfire in someone’s backyard because, really, where else are you going to go? My parents grew up in small towns. Pretty sure at least two of my grandparents did, too. We’re small town people, rural people.
I have to admit, some stereotypes of small-town living (Everyone knows everyone, for instance) I never really understood. I mean, I knew my neighbors, but in farmland, that isn’t all that many people. And small towns these days often have housing tracts tacked onto the sides of them, apartment complexes, trailer parks. So they’re not that image of small-town living that seems to permeate the media (And, to look at another setting for a moment, Regine’s vision of a small town with The Village outside of Addergoole) The houses go back layer after layer from Main Street. You go over the canal (in many cases) or the railroad tracks and you’re almost in another neighborhood. But you’ll still run into people you know at the grocery store, at the Fireman’s Carnival (I haven’t written a story about anyone at a carnival yet, have I?), at the Canal Days Craft Festival (Where Autumn really ought to have a booth…)
Autumn fits in small towns. She fits there in a way that I didn’t quite - maybe because she’s comfortable being the visitor. She comes through, she listens to someone’s problems, she fixes something, and she moves on with a slice of diner lemon meringue pie in her belly.
Autumn is wish fulfillment. :-) But if you’re wondering what those towns look like in my mind...
They look like Churchville and Greene, Trumansburg and Hammonsport.
They have a main street with strong facades, storefronts and restaurants that have looked like that for 100 years. They have a library just off the main drag and maybe an elementary school they built when the one-room schoolhouse got too crowded - in the 1950’s or so.
They have apartments or law offices over the stores, bares behind the stores, and there’s a little diner with a round man behind the counter that knows you when you come in.
And the milk you buy at the dairy may very well have come from a cow you see driving in, and sometimes the lady at the grocery store is your neighbor, and she’s judging your purchases with a raised eyebrow.
Greene, NY - http://www.panoramio.com/photo/92755379