In his 1985 Billboard hit single, “Small Town
,” John Mellencamp
recounts that he was “born in a small town and will probably die in a small town…had a ball and seen it all in that small town.” He concludes that he can’t forget where he came from or the people who love him because in his small town people let him be who he wants to be. And in his words, “that’s good enough for me.” This small town girl had the opportunity to walk down memory lane last month when ten people from our small Iowa town pulled into Nantucket for a visit.
The impetus for their visit, although overcast, was steeped in pure small town support. One of our mutual friends is battling cancer and a local benefit featured an all expense paid trip to Nantucket. It didn’t take much to entice 10 Iowans to hop the planes, buses and boats needed to deliver them to our island paradise. They rounded Brant Point, arms waving from the Steamship deck, and it was instantly old home week. We hadn’t seen most of these friends for almost 20 years, so it was simultaneously emotional and invigorating to re-connect.
Two of the ten are siblings from a family with 12 kids. That family has now swelled to an eye popping 175 members and still going strong! One of them was my babysitter and years later our kids were good friends and fellow athletes. Small town ties run deep. We spent hours touring, fishing, dining, toasting, reminiscing and laughing…and laughing…and laughing. There were somber moments sprinkled in too as we tried to fathom how we blinked and twenty years passed us by…and later we joined hands and bowed heads to honor our suffering friends at home.
It was heartwarming to share Nantucket with our friends and view it through their eyes. In many ways they saw similarities to home…the friendly greetings from neighbors and passersby, the “in the know” local tour guide, the industrious shop keepers and restaurant owners and (to their surprise) lots of preserved open space and farmland…and the generosity of strangers who loaned their home to them to support a family in need. They were “wowed” by things that were different from home…landscape dotted with lighthouses vs grain silos, rolling dunes covered in beach grass vs hills covered in wheat, the sun dipping into the ocean vs beneath a cornfield. We agreed that there are some things that are true in all our small towns. The desire to keep the air and water clean for our grandchildren, the importance of investing in our local businesses and the value in staying connected as a community through all of life’s seasons.
Small town life is in full swing on Nantucket now that we’re in the off-season. Come enjoy some lazy days strolling through the quiet historic streets, hiking up to Altar Rock
or biking out to ‘Sconset. Take advantage of shoulder season restaurant specials and local retail sales. Or gather friends and neighbors (from near or far!) around your dining table and toast to the opportunity to visit or live in a place that exemplifies small town living.