Mayberry or Hooterville?
My all-time favorite children’s book author and illustrator, Richard Scarry produced a version of Aesop’s classic “there’s no place like home” fable entitled The Country Mouse and The City Mouse. It’s become a bedtime favorite in my house. As a former country mouse from a town of 3,800 people, I find myself conflicted by the moral of this one. And I often wonder, now living in a city, how will my kids’ formative years be different from my own? To dig a bit deeper, I’ve put together a Top Five list of things my kids will gain and lose by not growing up in a small town.
1.) Parties. I won’t be sorry if my kids never experience a high school keg party in the middle of a cornfield.* Worse, driven there by a semi-drunk 25-year-old who starts his truck with a vise-grip. And worse still, driven there in the truck’s bed, seated on an unrestrained hydraulic tank. (*Please note: 1993-Angie would categorize this as a “loss,” not to mention a crying shame.)
2.) Extracurricular. I’m glad my children will have a more varied selection of extracurricular activities to immerse themselves in than sports, art, choir and 4-H. It’s tragic that after moving to a small town in 3rd grade, I was forced to give up my promising two-year career with the YMCA ballet. If 14-year-old-me realized there was a place in this world for skinny, flat-chested girls with sideshow freak double joints, I would’ve better survived junior high.
3.) Style. I won’t proclaim myself a fashion plate. Still, I’m rather upset that it wasn’t until 1994 when I attended college that I learned mall bangs and banana hair clips were outlawed in 1988. I also once believed The Brass Buckle’s 1992 wall display of tucked, layered and belted plaid shirts reflected the same high fashion looks coming down the catwalks of Milan.
4.) Shenanigans. With more police officers roaming the streets of my city, I feel reassured that it’s unlikely my kids can get away with joyriding their cars down a bike path. Both ways. Twice. On three separate afternoons. I also take comfort that if my daughter’s friends try to be cute by parking her car in the middle of the football practice field and leaving it there for the day, there will be consequences for their actions.
5.) Entertainment. I know I should be grateful we at least had a theater in my town. But when you’re at the mercy of a one-show weekend, you’d be surprised what you’d stand for in entertainment. I’d be better off having not seen: 1.) Straight Talk (Dolly Parton as a talk radio host.); 2.) Newsies (A depression-era musical about homeless newspaper boys.); 3.) Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot (Sylvester Stalone and Estelle Getty as a crime-fighting duo.); or 4.) Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey (How can the sequel stink any worse than the original? Oh, wait. It does.) Forget about going straight to DVD, these movies should’ve gone straight to the USA Channel – of which we wouldn’t have seen through my town’s cable line-up until 1991.
1.) Entertainment. I don’t consider it a benefit to city-living that my kids will have easier access to the concert scene. The day my daughter asks to go with a guy called Lurch to a Bleeding From Our Eyeballs concert on a school night is the day she begins her volunteer service in a women’s shelter. I can tell you the chances were slim I would’ve been passed a joint or fractured my collarbone in a mosh pit when I went to see Reba McEntire at the county fair. I’m equally disgusted by the possibility of getting dragged to one of the countless “feel good” mother-daughter concerts that could await me. I’d like to body-slam Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber into the concrete right now for what they may one day force me to endure on a Sunday night at the Qwest Center.
2.) Small Town Trading Cards. This is a concept developed by my city-bred husband who is forever intrigued when we’re out and about and I meet someone new. Regardless of the fact that the person is a stranger to me, grew-up 200 miles from my hometown, and is up to 30 years my junior or senior, chances are we can still exchange Trading Cards. Here’s how it works. Person A.) You’re from Central City? Do you know Jane Smith? I roomed with her in college. Person B.) Why of course I know Jane! She’s the daughter of my neighbor’s nephew Mike Smith. Person B.) You’re from Alliance? Do you know my brother-in-law Brian Jones? Person A.) Why, yes, I know Brian Jones! He helped coach my 8th grade track team and his mom served dinners at my church. And so on and so forth. What a loss that my children won’t get to collect their own Small Town Trading Cards.
3.) Extracurricular. My poor kids, having minimal athleticism in their family tree, will need a small miracle to get them on their school basketball teams. When I told my husband I once played basketball for my school (though, granted, on the second string in the 8th grade), I knew by his jaw-to-the-floor reaction that this would not have happened in his school. Or on any other planet in our universe.
4.) It Takes A Village. Pre-children, I would’ve put this on the other list and entitled it Gossip. But oh, how things change when you’re keeping track of two would-be ruffians. In my small town’s drug store, a friend once brazenly tried to steal a bottle of perfume after school. By 5:30 p.m., my mom received a call inquiring about the hooligan I was palling around with. I’d do anything to have Andy Taylor’s Aunt Bea patrolling the grounds if my kids so much as look at a pack of cigarettes.
5.) The Odd Couples. I will mourn that my kids won’t experience the motley crew of social formations that occurred in my school. While a loose-based caste system certainly existed, I’ll put it this way – The Breakfast Club made no sense to me. How could the Jocks form their own clique when only seven people in my entire town would legitimately qualify for membership? Like a half-dozen strangers forced to coexist on an island, small town schools contain the kind of chocolate box assortment of friend pairings you’d find on Gilligan’s Island. Now I feel like closing with my high school marching band’s rendition of kumbaya.