We know how to do community

I love traveling. I’ve spent a few months living in both Australia and England and have made trips to Africa, Europe and Central America as well as multiple cross-country American vacations. I am energized by experiencing new cultures, seeing natural beauty, encountering native wild animals. I always thought I’d be the woman who lived in Any-Country-That-Is-Not-America. Other people might have prayed, “Anywhere but Africa,” but my prayer was, “Anywhere but rural, upstate New York”!

But no.

That's not how my life has turned out.

I grew up in rural, upstate New York. I went to college in rural, upstate New York. My husband went to graduate school in rural, upstate New York, and now we currently live in rural, upstate New York.

That’s rural, upstate New York for the win!

A few Saturdays ago, I spent 10 hours writing the final papers for my summer school classes. By the end of the day, I was excited to be done but exhausted and not at all interested in making dinner. So the logical conclusion: go out to eat! My husband, kids and I piled into the car and drove to our favorite Indian restaurant with cozy-yet-family-friendly ambiance, ordered our favorite meals and had a lovely dinner.

Except nope, that’s not what happened.

We piled into the car and drove to…Subway. Subway is one of two restaurants in our town. We ordered deli meat and vegetables on bread and one bag of chips to share. We sat in a dingy booth. Someone accidentally dumped all of the chips on the floor. And then that Someone got very, very grumpy.

This is when my husband reminded me that a friend had just brought over a table saw for us to borrow. And then another friend and his son drove by and waved to us on their way somewhere. And a neighbor offered us some newly-downed trees for firewood. And another neighbor-friend offered to watch my kids for free so I could wrap up my summer classes.

Our corner of rural, upstate New York does not excel when it comes to restaurant options. Or cultural diversity, or availability of goods and services. But we know how to do community, and that goes a long way towards keeping me content here, even if it means eating celebratory deli-meat-and-bread instead of tandoori chicken, malai kaftan and mango lassi.

rebeccabyline

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8 comments on “We know how to do community

  1. Liz's Dad says:

    Everything in life seems to be a trade-off. And it looks like you made the best trade. I think as we age we start to see the most in life really are even if we need to be reminded occasionally what they are. Thanks for sharing with us.

  2. YES! We spent our whole lives — for many generations — in rural upstate NY and moved with our four kids to Austin, TX. As we’ve tried to determine the strengths of both areas, we’ve decided that rural upstate NY knows how to do the sort of hanging-out around a bonfire with nowhere to go in a hurry sort of community. (Secretly we call it The Shire.) Our hometown is rather risk-adverse and opposed to Big Ideas and optimism which are strengths we love in Austin. But we are so glad to be *from* a place that knows how to sit together and relax. Loved your post…thanks!

  3. Rebecca says:

    Tamara – I love ‘The Shire’. Its got more positive connotations than “The Village” (currently a favorite nickname for our town).

  4. Sara says:

    Community trumps cuisine! Love it!

  5. Darla says:

    Rebecca your description of the help offered by neighbors reminds me of stories I heard about my family settling in Kansas and Colorado several generations ago. Community was really all you had. And still what is most important compared to other resources. Several years ago, we lived in a very small town in Kentucky where the “restaurant” choices were a smoke-filled, country cooking place or pizza at the gasoline station! At least Subway has healthy veggies! Hang in there. Enjoyed your post.
    Darla

  6. Marlene Seifert says:

    I stopped at the Subway in Houghton to get lunch for my little sister and I when I took her to Moss Lake and Letchworth for her birthday. I remember being very proud of the fact that the townie working the counter in mid-May talked to me like I was a local from the area after I had mentioned that I had been to Moss Lake.

  7. Marlene Seifert says:

    But seriously, as one of the other commentors stated, life is full of tradeoffs, and I think that you’ve definitely made one of the best ones. Really knowing my neighbors is one of the things that I truly miss about living in the country, and sometimes I’d much rather have that than the really cool, really cheap taco joint five blocks away from my apartment.

  8. elizabeth says:

    Rebecca,
    This is one of my favorite Texas Schmexas posts so far. Thanks for sharing! I love your honesty.

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