The jingle of the gas station bell. The hum of the coffee machine. The donuts made fresh every morning. And the man behind the counter who knows your order before you ask, who hands you your coffee, extra cream, and says, “This one’s on me.”
The mother in her dented red mini-van who waves from the same intersection, James and 3rd, every school day morning.
The lady in her electric wheelchair with the dog leash wrapped around the controller, taking Pepper for his morning walk. Who asks you how your day is, if you’re happy, if you’re dating anyone.
The trees that outline the park, branches swaying in the wind. The little flowers that line the concrete road right outside of the elementary school.
These are the things you will see in a small town.
The woman jogging the block who smiles as she runs past you. The teenager that nods his head as you let him cross at the stop sign.
The cows that line the fields just off Highway 9. The unlit backroads that are so dark at night, if you turn off your lights, you disappear. The gravel paths that you travel and intentionally lose yourself along.
The faces that see you, smile at you. That seem to recognize you, know you, care about you.
That is what you will see in a small town.
A small town is three restaurants, two gas stations, and a bar that feels like a second home. It is a man sharing a morning beer and breakfast with another man, fresh from the night shift.
It is a single mother with three daughters in daycare. It is a teenage boy on the edge of his seat, itching to run.
It is worn steps, laundry on a clothesline, children playing in the back alley, and tired, happy faces.
It is cheaper gas, friend discounts, and never having your I.D. on you because everyone knows who you are.
A small town is hugs shared between acquaintances. Friendship despite an age gap, 20-somethings and 65-year-olds, teenagers and 10-year-olds. Somebody’s related to somebody. Someone knows someone who knows so-and-so. It is strangers that are family.
If you’ve ever lived in a small town, you know this: You can hide, but you are never invisible. You can be alone, but never lonely. You have an urge to leave, but there’s an even stronger pull luring you back. You love and are loved.
That is what it means to live in a small town.