I can tell it is spring. The sunlight is shining like it did into my house 19 years ago and the birds are singing. That is not a winter pattern.
This month we will have lived in this house 19 years. It seems impossible. I was 24, teaching, no kids and got the dream I wanted, an older house.
We have experienced many changes over the years living in our tiny house. Our small college town has boomed with new home builds. Our once dead downtown is alive with attractive shops and restaurants. I am certain many of our friends never understood how we decided to stay here so long. Oh, it was never the plan. You see, my husband and I went to college in this small town. After graduation we stayed. The job market was tight in 1990 and we took the jobs we could get. Those jobs happened to make living here very convenient. Our college friends left for more exciting places and big cities. We settled into our small town in our small house.
As our children arrived our home became very crowded. By this time, we made friends of others that made our home town a stop over to bigger adventures. We watched dear friends leave for grander homes in flashier towns, yet we stayed put. We took a gamble. The school district was still not top rated, but we could see positive growth. Our small downtown was starting to be reborn after it’s death in the earlier 1990’s when Wal-Mart came to town.
Oh, how I agonized over the decision to stay. Was it the right choice? Can a family of four live in such a small home? Will the schools provide the kind of education I want for my children? Slowly those questions were answered.
I met a friend who’s husband was a master woodcrafter and contractor. He was able to give me the kitchen of my dreams that included a dishwasher. Soon after the kitchen remodel, my friend figured out how we could get one more bathroom into our home. While we managed to survive our renovations by using a camping toilet, cooking meals in an electric skillet and showering at any friend’s home that would let us in the door, finally our house looked amazing!
Our school district began to flourish as well. Our district continued to improve in state ratings every year. With the hard work of administrators, teachers and the community we passed operating levies and raise the bar of excellence in our little town.
I know my friends on the outside of our small town still don’t understand how we stayed. They still only see it through the eyes of a 22-year-old ready for world adventures. Some still see it as a place where you can’t buy an executive home. I see it differently. My kids are getting a top-notch education that will give them a solid foundation to enter an excellent university. We live in a college town that allows us to experience cultural events we would otherwise miss. We have partnered with other alumni to bring excellent sports training to our traveling soccer program. My kids are growing up with fine families that share our same values.
But mostly, I like it because it still has experiences that I had as a kid. My girls walked down the street for string lessons. Their music lessons is with a dear friend, that has known them since they were born. She is not a stranger that they learn music from each week. Many times they stay much longer than a normal lesson. They come home with treats or maybe they got into a discussion about their future musical plans. They will never forget those Thursday afternoon string lessons.
I like how on the Fourth of July each year we are transported back in time. The festivities go on from dawn to late in the night . There is a parade the whole town attends, as a matter of fact you better get your lawn chairs down on main street at about 7:00 AM that morning or you will be standing for the whole thing. During the day there is always a cookout to go attend. Some years we have hosted, some years our friends. In the evening there is pops orchestra concert in the glen of the university. I don’t live in a fancy town, but we do have a semi professional orchestra that makes its home here. Once the last note of Stars and Stripes Forever is played, which I can sing the entire piccolo part to and I don’t play piccolo, we pack up our camp site from the lawn of the glen, and head for the best fireworks around. I played Stars and Stripes Forever over 100 times one summer. That is a whole other story, from a music gig I had years ago. Our course, every year I have to tell my husband this story, which he has heard 100 times himself!
So did we make the right choice? As I sit writing this blog and enjoying the first sunlight of spring fill my tiny little home, my answer is absolutely. I know it is not everyone’s first choice and it certainly was not mine, but our town and home has blossomed into exactly where I always wanted to live. But more importantly, my children are make fond memories they will cherish and perhaps bore their husbands with some day. Sometimes what looks like the last choice was the best choice. You just have to have faith. How do I know this. Well, I heard a conversation among strangers at a very large box store in the large city 15 miles from our home town. A man was telling a couple that their mutual friend just opened a restaurant in our downtown. He was explain how good the place was and going on and on about the town. And then he said, “Yes, Delaware!” I only smiled as I pushed my overload shopping cart of bulk foods past. My hometown, a topic of conversation in the big city, how very interesting.