Twenty Minutes Away

Local church, town meeting house, and school

It’s a phrase I think to myself throughout the day: twenty minutes away.  As in, grocery store.  Twenty minutes away.  Starbucks.  Twenty minutes away. Take-out.  Twenty minutes away.  Gas station.  Twenty minutes away.  Target. Twenty minutes away.  Shopping mall.  Twenty minutes away.  I find myself trying to gauge just how much I want to buy food; drink coffee; get take-out; fill up the car; or buy anything.  Because just driving twenty minutes to get something, anything, is not a big deal until you remember it’s now another twenty minutes to get back home.

While we really enjoy the town we’ve just moved to, it is simple (isolated) by design.  There is a general store in the center of town.  It actually carries a lot of useful grocery type things, has a decent wine section and cafe, and charges reasonable prices.  But if you want anything frozen you are out of luck.  The toilet paper comes in camping-sized mini rolls.  The coffee is flavored with Hazelnut or Vanilla.  The bread is all Pepperidge.  There is only one type of anything, but there is one type of almost everything.  The total contents of the store are obsessively random, in tiny sizes, and make you feel like you are constantly on vacation.  The town also boasts, three multipurpose churches; a school, a library, an ATM machine; a real estate office; a dentist; an auto-body shop; an insurance company; an ice cream stand (serving monstrous amounts of ice cream at every serving); several Mum inspired roadside nurseries or, Mummeries, as I’ve taken to calling them; family owned farmer’s markets and egg stands; resident muralists; and other assorted home businesses.  Wanting anything other than this is a forty minute commitment.

It took almost three weeks to figure out the town even had this much and I’m sure the list will grow as we live here.  Driving through on the main road you see a library, a statue in a rotary, and a general store.  That’s it.  You continue driving and don’t see anything but houses, barns, farms, and fields for twenty minutes.  Spending time here, however, you discover there is a little bit more and more each day.  The weekends turn ordinary driveways into markets for vegetables and illegally slaughtered poultry products.  There is a Mum stand on every corner.  The five thousand people that are rumored to be living here make their way out of their homes.  The kids play on the lawn of the library or on the playground at the school.  You can see figures walking on Thoreau-inspired, fern covered trails.  Cyclists put on their Tour de France costumes and hit the narrow streets in small packs.

I complain of course, but also know that I’m pretty damned fortunate to be living in a place like this.  There is no crime but for the theft of a turtle crossing sign and the occasional report of a rooster disturbance (at 5 AM).  The kids are polite and the parents couldn’t be friendlier.  The school is teaching Mandarin to my 7 year old when she’s not in gym, art, or music.   My 4 year old gets extra servings of ice cream at the ice cream stand when they discover she has a food allergy – the only time she has benefited from having a food allergy.  Our landlord brings us espresso, flowers, and history books of the town.  I repeat, OUR LANDLORD brings us espresso, flowers, and history books of the town.  We have a family of deer living in the meadow behind the dilapidated barn.  Our greatest personal threat is Eastern Equine Encephalitis from the mosquitoes or ticks.  Living here doesn’t even seem real half the time and the other half I try to figure out how to make it a permanent condition. Because, despite my complaining about being in the middle of nowhere, it sure would be a luxury to have all this and with only a forty minute commute.

In the end, what’s not to like?

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