The very first time we drove down the winding lane and the long, tree shrouded driveway that led to our someday-house, it was only to see if the commute for Guy would be tolerable, if the house was too far away from civilization, and if we could even "see" ourselves living there. It was late, after sunset, and the wooded lane was sinking into darkness. Natalie wept, "Dis is scawy, I don't yike it here." The little voice in my heart-head that protects my children from all harm decided right then and there, if this place scares my baby, we can't possibly consider it.
But somehow that first of first impressions disappeared when I saw the place in the daylight; green slopes and mossy boulders, pines and oaks and deer trails. As possibilities solidified into plans, we began telling people about our new house and I found myself saying, "Well, it's an hour away from Sac, in the woods, but we can be to Walgreens in 20 minutes, and to the nearest little market in about five." I had to prove to myself, by way of convincing others, that moving this far away from what was familiar was somehow a safe and, dare I say, good idea. It's like pretending to enjoy green beans so your kid'll try 'em; oldest trick in the book, in reverse.
One of my big worries was that there would be nothing to do here once we settled in. I pictured Little House on the Prairie, listenin' to Pa' play the fiddle on Saturday nights. I was looking at harmonicas and wool long-johns on Amazon, and whittling tutorials on Youtube.
Boy, was I wrong.
I am just amazed at how much happens here. I think when we lived in the city, we were so surrounded by hustle and bustle that it felt busy. Sure, we did an occasional gallery hop, or attended a summer concert in the park, but since moving here we have enjoyed so many new experiences. Small town life is slower, it's true, but it takes itself seriously, and folks are dedicated to their hometown pride in a new and unexpected way. Shop keepers tell you about their secret swimming hole ("Shhh, don't tell anyone. This is for locals only," the owner of the antique store had said. *GRIN*, she called us locals!), neighbors wave as they drive by, and yes, some places will even offer to carry a tab for you. There are parades of all sorts, and car shows, and craft fairs, and golly, Winthrop, sometimes I feel like I'm in The Music Man. No joke.
One of our new explorations has been to pick a town (there are about 10 in the area) and stroll the main street (not on Monday... or Tuesday... or sometimes-but-not-always Wednesday, and certainly not after 5pm, or 4 maybe. Or lunchtime...)
...and wander through shops. We don't make a day of it, doing a whole street in one go. We just do a few shops at a time. Ancient hand-hewn stone buildings that used to be banks or jails are now antique stores or boutiques. One Monday (oops, we hadn't got the No Mondays memo yet) we took the kids to Jackson to wander down main street, a particular gem/bone/Native American shop in mind, only to find it closed, of course. Wandering along we looked through picture windows and remarked, "Wow, cool! We'll have to try to come back to this one..."
I whispered to Guy that I knew there was a candy shop down the way a bit. He gave me a nod, and we headed there in hopes of an OPEN sign.
Yay! Bless you, Train Town Candies!
We told the kids they could get an ice cream or a bit of (slightly pricy though worth it for the ambiance) candy. It was hard to choose!
The shop keeper told us that this used to be a toy store, specializing in wooden trains, balsa-wood plane kits and other unusual toys and puzzles. He has every kind of cookie cutter you could possibly Ever Need. But once the Walmart moved in a few miles up the road, he almost went out of business. He and his family began making fudge and selling candy to try to stay afloat. It must be working. I've been in there three times since our first visit, and there is always a little crowd.
Well, a big crowd, if you include us!
The big boys, busy with big-boy responsibilities, don't usually join us in our wanderings. I wish they would. I love marching into a store with all six of my kiddos.
I told Guy the other day that I am really starting to like it here. It only took a year. To be fair though, my new responsibilities have taken time to get the hang of. Just like an old train, I started out slow and took a while to get my rhythm.
I think I can.
I think I can.