Friday, January 13, 2012

Where Everybody Knows Your Name (and Your Business)

I’ve been in Texas all week visiting my sister and her family. She lives in Glen Rose, a town of 2,100 people. It’s the kind of town where the pharmacist knows my sister by name; the kind of town that turns out in full force for the opening of the new school gymnasium; the kind of town where gift shop owners on the square encourage shoppers to visit their competition.

Glen Rose is double the population of the town where I grew up; a town I dreamt of escaping my whole childhood. And boy, did I. I went to a state university of 50,000 students. I’ve lived in cities with populations in the millions.

And yet, I ended up living in a small town myself. And although it’s 10 times larger than my sister’s community, it gives me the things I took for granted as a child and the things my sister experiences daily.

My pharmacist knows me by name – which is tough with a name like Mikulencak. I’m likely to see 10 or more people I know just by walking down main street. I have a main street! My office building’s landlord cut my rent in half just so I’d stay in her building.

I’m confident that even big city dwellers find this sense of community in little pockets of their bustling cities.

What about YOUR town (city) makes it home for you?


  1. I remember craving the anonymity of big city life. And getting it. Then craving connection. I've found that in my new hometown. Of course that does mean I can't just 'pop over to the store' in my pajamas, because it's pretty much guaranteed that I WILL see someone I know. Or who knows me.
    The sense of community is what it's all about for me here. Together, we cheer for one another's victories (a former student going on to college)... we're pained by our common losses (a former student's suicide).
    But even moreso, it's the small things. The smile. The handshake. The hug. The nod of understanding in the produce aisle at the supermarket. The friends who show up for the cd release party. The forgiveness after a misunderstanding. The invitation to go get a burger, or go for a hike. The acceptance of me just the way I am, warts and all. That makes this my true home.

  2. I've spent most of my life in big cities, but now that I live in Taos (going on 8 years), it feels like home like nowhere else has. My favorite thing of many is how easy it is to get together with friends.

    In big cities life moves faster, plus there's traffic and distance, parking, etc. In Taos we can be way more spontaneous because of proximity, and our lives move more slowly, so there's an openness to frequent coffee/hike/drink dates.

    I remember living in San Francisco and New York and you'd have to book plans with friends weeks in advance. Though I love to visit cities, I doubt I'll ever live in one again. I love seeing my friends often, and having the freedom to carve out more time for them.

  3. I have lived in London most of my life and I do love it, though I often think about what it would be like to live somewhere smaller where everybody knows your name.

    It is true no matter where you are a sense of community grows. Even in the middle of a big city, the guys at the shop at the end of my road know and greet me (though not by name, I must say). I do yoga round the corner from where I live and know and meet with fellow yogis who live locally, for theatre and drinks. My family lives close - my parents and sister and her family all within a five-mile radius!

    Seeing old friends is harder, we check diaries, make arrangements and have to travel but, with a bit of effort, it is possible.

    What makes it home? For me, the familiarity, sense of place and yes, "community" - I think we do as human beings, like you say Mandy, build that wherever we are.