Thoughts on a Summer Drive

The windows were down, the sun was up, and the trees whizzed by. Jamison and I were on our way to explore Taylors Falls, Minnesota for the afternoon. As we drove through the countryside, with little conversation (as it’s hard to do with no AC and a wind tunnel in the car), we let the Lumineers sing us through our thoughts.

I watched small towns fade in and out as we drove further east. It struck me that I love small towns. Ten years prior I would’ve proclaimed the exact opposite. Being a teenager in the rural United States is less than ideal. Getting your drivers license is everything. That little piece of plastic finally gives you the freedom to drive the 10 miles to your best friend’s house; it carries you to football games and to the occasional party in the middle of a cornfield; it turns a lazy summer afternoon into something full of possibility. By the time senior year comes to a close, you can’t wait to get out. You want a big city, anonymity and adventure. What 18-year-old doesn’t?

But now at 26, with plenty of travels and big cities behind me, it’s almost time to decide where to settle down. Our upcoming marriage has my fiancé and I thinking about the best places to live, where to have kids, and what to name our future Newfoundland.

And while I love the Twin Cities for lots of reasons, I find myself being pulled back to the charm and simplicity of small-town life (my 18-year-old self is cringing at this statement). I love the space my parent’s house has and I relish in the peace that comes with living in the country.

At the same time, it’s not easy to find great school systems in rural areas. I won’t say it’s impossible, but it’s hard to entice fresh, young teachers to a small town. On the other hand, growing up where I did, I was able to be a three-sport starting athlete (a feat not common in schools like Minnetonka or Eden Prairie). Our teams rarely won titles or championships, but every player gained from multiple team experiences.

It’s funny how my feelings toward small-town life have come full circle. As a small child I adored spending countless hours playing in the backyard woods. As a teenager, I couldn’t possibly understand why my parents would do this to me; I would never make my kids live in a small town! And now here we are considering it, with hopes that our future teenagers won’t despise us, too (that may come with all teenagers though). Maybe these insights about childhood are gained with age, life experiences and a little bit of distance. The prospect of getting married and starting my own family has caused me to reexamine my upbringing and be grateful.

The Lumineers’ melodies faded back into my ears. I glanced over at Jamison through my wild wind-blown hair, and smiled. Wherever we end up, it’s another adventure I’m ready to start.