The first layout I created for my “Letters to My Children” album was a one about why my husband and I decided to raise our kids in the small town in which we both had been raised ourselves … despite mildly despising it while we were in high school. (I did, at least. I guess I shouldn’t speak for Chad.)
This layout, until about a week ago, was as far as I got with that album that I thought would be so important for my kids – but never made time to put together. (Notice the date? Yep, Jan. 1, 2011 – two years ago. Oy.)
Now that I’ve decided to get the album started with the journaling here on my blog (and worry about scrapbooking part later), I thought it was fitting to share that first layout, and the journaling included within it, in my archives, hoping one day my children will actually read these posts. Maybe at least they will find all of my thoughts in one place.
So, without further ado…
Note that we no longer live in what is labeled here as “our current house,” and we did not move to where we thought “our future house” would be!
Journaling from the layout:
When I was a teenager in high school living in Danville, I swore I would leave this town and never come back. The truth is, I hated being from a small town. I felt sheltered, life seemed boring, and I had bigger dreams than this town could handle.
But a funny thing happened. I moved to Bloomington for college (Indiana University), and I loved it. It had more cultural opportunities than I had ever been exposed to. I interacted with people from a variety of cities, states, countries, economic backgrounds and races. It was an interesting place to be. Life wasn’t boring anymore. And I had all of the opportunities in the world to learn and expand my horizons in preparation for a new career that I knew I would love. I felt like I was part of a bigger society there, and I loved it in many ways.
But the truth is, it was a little lonely. I was dating Chad, and we were together on the weekends. He came to Bloomington, or I would go to Terre Haute (where he was a student at Indiana State University), or we would go home to Danville. Life was good between him and me, but outside of that, we didn’t get to know a ton of people. I had a few good friends at IU, but I didn’t make a ton of close friends. My roommate was a good friend, but she was gone on the weekends, too. I was involved in a few activities, was active in my classes and always had jobs there, so I knew plenty of people, but all in all, it was just me and Chad.
So with all of the opportunities in a larger town, with tons of interesting people from different backgrounds, lots of little unique shops and restaurants and tons of artsy things to do within a very short distance of where I lived, it was still a bit of a lonely place to be. I guess I didn’t really feel that way while I was there; I was happy at the time, I suppose. But in hindsight, I think I overestimated the benefit of living in a bigger city.
When Chad and I got married, we moved to Greenwood, a town with more to do than Danville, for sure. Everything was close to our apartment—my job, the grocery, the mall, the movie theater, plenty of places to get our everyday-life kinds of things like oil changes and daily errands taken care of. And sure, there were tons of people close by. We occasionally invited friends over. We still had our social time. And we had tons of time together, getting to know each other better and spending time with our families (who lived in Danville and Avon) when we had a chance. But really, it was just Chad and me.
We longed for something more. We wanted to be closer to family, and we wanted to grow our own family, too. We slowly began to realize the importance of the people—more than the things, more than the activities, more than the opportunities—in our lives. And the people we loved were not in Greenwood. We decided to move back to Danville when our apartment lease was up.
A year after we got married and graduated from college, we moved back to our home town, our small little town we realized we had loved all along. I believe it was the best decision we made as a couple.
Here, we feel at home. Sure, we have to drive a little while to get to shopping destinations or restaurants or live theater. But within a very short distance, we have lots of people who make our lives rich. We have neighbors we love and trust, and with whom the kids enjoy playing. We have family nearby: my mom, my younger sister and her family, Chad’s mom and Chad’s older brother and his family. And we have lots of friends.
The older I get, the more I cherish those friendships. These are people who love us for who we are—not because they feel like they have to, just because they want to be in our lives, to get to know us, to share their time with us.
It’s hard to live in a small town and not make friends, especially with kids who are active in sports and school. We have made tons of friends since we have moved back. We have friends who are (or were) neighbors. We have friends whose kids played with our kids on soccer and baseball and basketball teams. We have friends whose kids went to preschool with our kids. We have friends who enjoy the same hobbies as we do. We have friends we’ve made through church. And we still have friends from high school who have also moved back to Danville, many of whom have kids of their own. The best part is, we know these friendships will last. Many of us have chosen Danville as our forever home, and we can count on these friends being close by, sharing in our lives through school, sports, game nights and good old-fashioned camaraderie.
We love living in Danville because we feel like we are part of a living, active community. We can’t go to the grocery store, a school function, the Mexican restaurant we love , a baseball game, the local movie theater or the park without running into someone we know. We say hi, share a smile and leave feeling happy to know we’re a part of this town. Knowing our neighbors and being aware of what’s going on in so many people’s lives leaves us feeling safe and happy. We look out for each other. If we’re feeling down, we have people to lift us up, and vice versa. We might not be able to leave the house in our pajamas and know no one will see us, but that’s OK with me. I’d rather be part of a community than totally anonymous living in this big world. And when the urge strikes to experience something more, we can drive to many of the opportunities (arts, restaurants, unique shops) that Danville can’t offer.
G&E, you will no doubt at some point dislike this town as you go through school. You will be irritated that everyone knows your business—who you date, how you break up, who your friends are, what you got on that tough exam. But try to focus on the positives. You’ll develop friendships you will treasure forever. When you get that bad grade on that tough exam, or when you break up with that boyfriend or girlfriend you thought you loved so much, you’ll have friends who will know you as well as you know yourself and will make you feel better. And you’ll have family close by; you can come to any of us at any time. You’ll never be alone.
Someday you might want to move out of town and get a taste for living in a city with more opportunities. If you get that itch, follow it. You need to follow your heart and experience the wider world for yourself. But I hope that someday later on, you’ll realize how much you have here in this little town. You might move back, and you might not. Whatever you do, remember that this community took you in with open arms and will always be here for you. Your dad and I will always be here, too. And even if you never have a home of your own in Danville, you will always have a home with us.
January 1, 2011