There are folks sitting on their porches waving to the cars driving by, as everyone in sight has a familiar face. Everywhere I go I’m surrounded by deep valleys with lush, green grass and fertile soil. There are humble homes lined up along the quiet streets. To an outsider, the houses may just seem like old, rundown sheds just barely standing, but to small town folk those houses are full of history and character. The people who live there tell a story and their houses are the books.
Driving down the open country roads I can feel the summer breeze combined with the soft scent of meadow flowers running through the air.
The best part of living in a small town is that everyone is family, and we all protect our own. Feelings run deep because everything feels so personal. It may seem like just another place to someone on the outside, but my hometown Athens, Ohio is much more than a small town to me.
My childhood home looked like one out of an old family sitcom, located right in the middle of The Plains of Athens. It had a light blue vinyl exterior that has become slightly unpolished over the years, and a bright red door that always held its vibrant color was propped open by an old shoe to let in the summer breeze.
My favorite part of my childhood home was the large wooden-framed deck that wrapped around the back of the house. I can remember the very first day we moved in as my siblings and I played in the small valley in our dandelion-filled backyard; meanwhile, my mother was standing on the deck with her right arm resting on the wooden ledge that was brilliantly white with new paint as she watched us.
Our friendly neighbor, Randy, would often come out and play with us in the summer days.
I always knew when he was coming outside to play because I could hear the soft tinkling of the wind chimes that shifted when he would open his shuttered backdoor. I remember how much I was looking forward to my first time returning to Athens after moving away as I hadn’t seen Randy in a long time, but when I had finally arrived I was astounded to find that Randy’s family had moved away. Perhaps it was foolish to imagine everything would be the exact same once I returned, but in a small town it’s common to live around the same people for an entire lifetime. It reminds me of why living in a small town is so great, everyone’s close like family and it’s almost like losing a relative when a neighbor moves away.
When I moved to Dublin, Ohio in the 4th grade, I was astonished by the many people in such a lively and fast-paced community. Both places are so different, it’s almost hard to believe that I could feel so comfortable in these two completely unalike areas. In Dublin, I meet and see new faces every day. I could go to the same park or shop every day and still see a new person every time I go. I remember my father once mentioning that the population of Dublin is over 42,000, while in The Plains the capacity is a miniscule amount of about roughly 3,000 people. When putting that into perspective, it’s pretty clear that it would be almost impossible to be connected to 42,000 different people, but rather in The Plains it’s hard not to know something about everyone.
Back in The Plains, everyone knows your business, sometimes even before you do. In some instances, it’s not rare to feel like there is no room for solitude because everyone is so involved with each other. You could look at it in a negative way, but for me the fact that everyone is so close is really what makes a small town like The Plains so great. I know that despite anything, my little community always has my back. I remember being in the car with my father on our way home from the local grocery store when we suddenly heard the sirens of an ambulance blaring through the air, it was like a violence to the peace that had been there before. My father paused and look in the direction of where the flashing lights travel to see if we knew anyone that lived in that direction.
In this case, we did and my father followed by picking up the phone and making sure that everyone was alright. In a place like The Plains, an action like this was common and neighbors were always there to reach out. If there’s a new family in town, everyone else already knows before the newcomers have even had the chance to unpack their bags. Neighbors are always the first to assure you that if you ever need anything, your town is always there for you. The people in The Plains are all connected in different ways, we all know each other. You don’t necessarily have to know everything about everyone, but you know them enough to say hi in the store and chat for a few minutes.
One memory I have from growing up in The Plains is the time I overheard my mother talking on the phone while I sat in the living room, cross-legged on a rug with tan woolen fibers. She had called the wrong number, but the person on the line very kindly gave her the correct number. It’s almost comical to me now to think that our town was so small that you could have the wrong number, and still end up finding the right person through one phone call. Everyone knew each other, so if you needed a phone number you could find it after asking just one person. Aside from the people in The Plains, the feeling of safety and calmness of the place itself makes the small town such a great community. There’s nothing like sitting outside and enjoying the peaceful chirping of a Carolina Wren in the morning. Unlike Dublin, The Plains has a much slower and tranquil scene.
There are no busy streets filled with cars honking and tires screeching in a stop-start traffic jam. If anything, the only traffic in a small town like The Plains is a couple cars stuck behind a tractor on a country road. There’s probably only one or two traffic lights in the entire town because it would be unnecessary to have more. It’s funny for me to think about that now because I drive through at least 6 of them every day on my way to school. There’s nothing like the energy of a big city, but the hectic pace isn’t for everyone. I would definitely say that I am one who prefers the mellowness of small towns over the frantic and traffic-filled city.
One of my favorite thing about my hometown is how close everything is. The grocery store isn’t just the place to buy food, it’s also the place where locals can drop off their dry cleaning or rent a good old family movie. It makes sense to feel quite safe in a town where everyone knows everyone. Most people didn’t even carry a key to their houses because they were always unlocked. The place I live in now is just a house, but the little blue cottage with the bright red door happily resting on a field with a valley full of dandelions, that place is my home. I may only visit my hometown once a year for a couple of days, but every time I visit it’s like revisiting my childhood.
My time in The Plains is a time I will never forget, it has and always will be my home. Home is where your heart feels at ease, and your mind feels at rest. Home is a place you recognize even with your eyes closed because the scent of home is a smell that is so strongly linked with the best memories that it’s hard for all those great times not to come rushing back when you smell home. Home isn’t just a house, home is the people that you look to when you need help and the place you go when you need somewhere to collect your thoughts. Home is never too far away and you can always go back when there’s nowhere else to go, because a house is just temporary – home is forever.