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Warmest regards: Missing small town life

A small incident that happened to me this week reminded me of a line from “The Wizard of Oz.”

“You’re not in Kansas anymore.”

We sometimes use that expression now when we are referring to something that isn’t the same anymore.

What’s not the same for me is living in a small town … so small that everyone knows everybody.

I always loved the small-town feeling of knowing everyone, as well as their grandparents and pets.

I knew I was far removed from small-town living when a package that I didn’t order arrived at my front door. When I looked at the name on the package I saw that it was meant for my neighbor two doors away.

When that happens, and it’s happening far too often with both mail and packages, we just deliver it to the right door.

When my neighbor Kile answered the door and I handed him the package, he had a strange question.

“Do you live around here?” he asked.

When I told him I lived two doors away from him, he said, “Oh, did you just move to the neighborhood?”

I’ve lived here for 15 years yet he didn’t know me.

When I thought about it, it brought home how much life has changed in what was once a small town.

There was a time when I knew the name of just about every neighbor on the block. That isn’t true anymore and it’s not because I’ve stopped being friendly with neighbors.

There were so many people moving from and moving into our development that it’s hard to keep track. For at least the past two years that’s been true all over town.

Our town’s population is exploding. About five years ago there were only about a hundred new homes built each year.

Now we’re getting hundreds of homes each month as people move here from cities they are fleeing.

Ironically when I moved here, our town was described as a sleepy fishing village. That’s why I picked it.

Gone are the days when I can say I live in small town where we all know each other.

I often think about growing up in a town so small that we kids could walk everywhere. There aren’t too many places like that today.

I sometimes make the comment about parents never driving kids all over when I was growing up. What that doesn’t take into account is that today everything is too far apart for kids to walk everywhere.

I was always happy to live in my small coal region town. I never wanted to move and never would have if my husband didn’t need to move for his job.

For others, once kids finish college, that often means they must move to find work in their field.

That changes life in so many ways.

My daughters are both “city girls.” They both thrive on living in a big city that offers so much convenience.

Yet, my daughters admitted a while ago that they pay a heavy price for moving away.

It’s no longer easy to get together for holidays, much less the weekly family dinners we enjoyed when we all lived near each other.

My daughters always had to decide which set of parents they would visit for a holiday.

I never had that problem. With both my family and my in-laws living in the same town we could manage to be with both sides every single holiday.

To me, there is nothing better than having the entire family together for holidays. That’s the best kind of gift.

I have so many incredible memories of big family celebrations. Today, that’s all they are - memories. I wish my grandkids had those memories. I think they are missing out when they only see relatives a few times a year.

With COVID, it’s down to once a year, if we’re lucky.

There is so much I love about small-town living. I like walking downtown and shopping in stores where we know the owners.

I love all the small-town events like parades, band concerts in the park, high school sporting events, community festivals and car shows. The Palmerton Community Festival and the band concerts in borough park were always events that gladdened my heart - glad that I lived in a small town and glad that I could look around and see so many nice people I knew.

Now, I can go to a so-called community event and I’m lucky if I see one other person I know. I always feel like I’m swimming in a sea of strangers.

My brother lives in the same coal region town where we grew up. But he tells me it’s not the same small town I remember. “You have a small town romantic vision of towns that are no longer like what you remember,” he said.

He also claims it’s no longer true that neighbors all know each other. “When I go somewhere I look around and don’t know most of the people I see,” he says.

Is he right? Have small towns changed greatly over the years?

When I was a kid I read a children’s book called “Country Mouse, City Mouse.”

Even back then I knew which I preferred.

But I’m enough of a realist to believe in the saying, “Bloom where you are planted.”

What about you?

Contact Pattie Mihalik at newsgirl@comcast.net.