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A sweeter life in the small town

April 2, 2011

Comedians joke about them; big city folks cast aspersions on them; and big business pretends they don’t exist. 
Of course, I’m talking about small towns - where you know all your neighbors, and a trip to Wal-Mart is the social event of the week. 
When I lived in New Orleans, I could sneak into Target without make-up or even matching shoes, confident I wouldn’t wouldn’t meet a soul I knew.  Now I can’t get out of Kroger without running into my dentist, my pastor, or my hairdresser.  
When I dashed to the store last week without make-up, three people expressed concern that I was ill.  One even brought me some chicken soup later in the day.
Take my advice, you’d better get dressed to the nines to go “stepping’ out” in my town, even if going out is only to pay your electric bill.  And, never, ever, plan to be in a hurry. 
There’s no such thing as dashing into the store for a quick loaf of bread.  You’ll run into at least four or five people you know, and there will be grandbaby photos to oooh over, and I never leave the store without a good recipe or two. 
While waiting at the check out counter, my favorite thing to ask is “Excuse me, M’am. What are you going to do with those 12 bags of spinach?”  Okay, so I’m nosy, but I either find out there is a great sale on spinach or they will write down the recipe for some old family favorite.
When I selected the community in which to retire, I hit the jackpot.  Starkville, Mississippi is still small enough to qualify for the small town moniker, yet it bumps smack dab into a major university which adds energy and nightly opportunities for concerts, plays and sporting events.
Thank goodness I didn’t pick some huge honking metropolis.  I would already have been gobbled up and spit out.  Here, I have more activities than I can pencil in, and “doing lunch” is the favorite pastime.
The first thing I did when I moved to town was to start a walking program. I love to walk the old neighborhoods and spot a clothesline or some other vestige of the distant past.  But, every time I go out walking, at least one motorist stops to ask if I need a lift.  I assure them I’m walking on purpose.  Before they drive off, they always ask “How’s your Daddy and ‘em?” 
Small town—the phrase evokes the small community where I grew up and now the one I’ve adopted. Both offer an intimate sense of community, leafy serenity, and freedom from the cold, grimy canyons of the big city.
I read the other day that a small town is like a mother who watches over her children.  Kind of gives you a warm feeling, doesn’t it?

Emily Jones is a retire journalist who edits a website for bouncing baby boomers facing retirement.  She welcomes comments at

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