Truth: for a long time — years, in fact — I didn’t want to live here. Vermont was meant to be an interesting stop along the way, but not a permanent residence. When I realized this might be more than just a three year layover, I panicked. I spent hours searching for real estate in other cities. I searched job boards. I saved cardboard boxes for the move. I organized my closets as if the house was going on the market.
I was ready to go, but we weren’t going. It was a pretty dark time.
I didn’t intend to live here. I was just visiting. But somehow you wake up, and eleven years later, it’s real life. And for all my initial panic and resistance, I’m happy that it is. Vermont snuck up on me.
I started considering this my actual home when I realized that my friends here were my actual friends. Not my new friends, or my Vermont friends. Just good friends. And because this is a small town: they’re everywhere. We rarely go out to eat without bumping into a friendly face, and I mean that in a good way. I know some people wouldn’t like living in a small town because they’d feel like they always needed to be “on.” I call that the Lipstick at the Grocery Store phenomenon – the pressure to be put together at all times. But nobody here cares if you’re wearing lipstick anyway, so you’re home free.
Once John was born, I became even more tied to this place. It really is like getting to raise a child in the 1950s. I hear and read about how kids are too worldly these days. All they do is play video games. Or all they eat is fast food. Or how will you ever get them into the right schools? Or the right soccer team? Or the right clothes? I’ve experienced none of that. I don’t want to be a Pollyanna about it, but I really do believe that this is a more old fashioned way of life — much slower than what I see in other places. More sheltered. More unplugged. It’s like we’re playing childhood at the amateur level while other places are playing in the pros. I may be sending the most naive boy on the planet to college in 11 years, but I’ll take that.
I’ve become totally sold on small town life, in general. (Aspen, are you with me?) I’ve never wanted to live in a suburb or a small city. I wanted either City or Town. My thinking is that in either of those cases you have everything you need within a reasonably small space. No driving 20 miles to a mall. And the theory does hold up in real life. In our tiny town, we have a fantastic bookstore, some great small shops, restaurants (and more on the way), a brewery, a pewtery (I’m making up the word for this), local chocolate, etc. I’ve gone into all this before. And it’s right under our noses. It doesn’t take more than five minutes to get anywhere and waiting through one red light constitutes a major traffic delay. Not bad.
Then as backdrop it all, Vermont is just a beautiful place to live. Middlebury is like a Tasha Tudor picture come to life. We have a waterfall underneath Main Street, for pete’s sake. There are mountains in both directions. Flowers! Foliage! Fields! Farms! It’s lovely.
And there’s trick or treating through the downtown at Halloween. Santa rides into town on a fire truck at Christmas. People actually do make maple syrup. It’s pretty damn cute.
It’s not that I don’t see the drawbacks. It’s cold. It’s hard to get here. And although I’m not a fan of the big box store, sometimes you just wish you could go to a Target. But now when I think about leaving, it’s hard for me to imagine finding another place that lives up to all that we’ve ended up with in Vermont.
Yes, it took me a while, but I’m all in.