I sure didn’t grow up in a small town, but I’ve lived in one most of the past 12 years. Torrey has about 175 fulltime residents. Boomtown, eh? Not everyone knows everyone else, but it’s still a darn small community, so most faces are at least familiar.
People here know each other’s business, even when they shouldn’t. They squabble, gossip, bitch and moan. They poke each other, sometimes gently and sometimes with vicious, white-hot pokers, on Facebook. They read articles about Torrey, then hide behind online monikers and tear each other apart in the comments over perceived differences. They laugh together, play music together, party together, pray together, adventure together. People help one another, and they hinder one another. Sometimes they play nicely, and sometimes they don’t. Some people still see the world through their fifth-grade goggles, even though they’re in their 20s, 30, 40s, 50s, or more. Sometimes the kids teach the grown-ups how to really act like an adult.
So many different things happen in this one tiny, small town, it’s mind boggling. I often say that the million tourists who drive/pedal/hike through Torrey every year probably have no idea how much drama lives in this serene, gorgeous, itty bitty place! Sometimes, I wish I still had no idea too.
But that’s all part and parcel of life in a small town. We know our neighbors and friends and grocers and bankers and hairdressers and teachers and business owners much better than people living in huge cities usually do. We form tighter bonds of community, we understand (and misunderstand) one another more often than most city dwellers can hope to. News travels in a flash (even faster now, with texting and the Wayne County Bulletin Board on Facebook and, for all I know, psychic smoke signals we all somehow share) and little information stays truly hidden for long. We know shit about one another, even when we really wish we didn’t. We sometimes say shit about one another, even when we later experience remorse over our words (or perhaps a punch in face, depending on the parties involved and the exact words said and the amount of liquor consumed when said parties are in too close a proximity to one another at some nighttime gathering).
We bring each other food, watch each other’s kids and pets and businesses, pick up friends whose cars have broken down, put up near strangers in our home because they’re relatives of someone we know and they need a place to crash while they’re passing through. We wave at each other on the road (the famous Wayne County finger lift off the steering wheel as we whoosh by one another on the highway), nod in the grocery store, smile at mortal enemies in public and try not to remember too much of why we’re mortal enemies in the first place.
We play together too. A lot. We dance, sing, play music, play games, gather at houses or the bookstore or the Big Apple or Turner Park or the baseball field in Lyman. We share life as a small community, no matter how much some people in our very small community just don’t want to share their way of life with anyone they see as an outsider.
For the most part, I like my life in this small town. Don’t get me wrong, it sure ain’t all roses & cute kittens & homemade apple pie. Sometimes I really look forward to getting the hell out of Dodge for a while. But overall? Yeah, I like life in a small town. I’ll take it over life in a big city, most of the time for sure.