My spouse and I have lived in Fridley, Minnesota for well over a decade now. It wasn’t intentional in the way some people seek their community. We didn’t do a lot of research and hand-pick the area. We happened to stumble across a house that spoke to the both of us, after numerous ones that didn’t.
For a big chunk of my childhood, I grew up in Small Town Minnesota.
In Small Town, you really knew your neighbors. You went to church not only with your family, but with your grocer, your teachers, and the (only) town vet. The Twin Cities was considered sort of a bad place, a huge metropolis calling to some like a siren, seducing the youth to leave. Mostly though, people stayed in Small Town, married someone from Small Town and had children.
I left Small Town at a fairly young age and I’ve lived in other places—a short stint in California (where the siren was very loud indeed) and various spots scattered in the Twin Cities.
But I have always had a secret longing to live in Small Town again. I wanted to find those romantic connections that seemed so natural in Small Town, but are so rare everywhere else.
Certainly, in time, I had always managed to find my own sense of community where ever I lived. But it took work, and I had to look hard.
In today’s world where we have immense information available at our fingertips, but no context for that information (because we spend too much time, removed from people and experiences), I have found my passion for my youthful pursuits grow a little tired and strained, replaced by a personal quest for belonging and meaning. I sound old, I realize, but maybe that is the fire of mid-life that turns us wise.
What I have noticed since being a resident of Fridley, is that Small Town feelings and values are quite well and alive here. I have met many folks who grew up here, went away for an education or the start of a career, only to return. Many times they would buy the home from their parents where they grew up, or at the very least, live mere blocks away.
I’ve not only borrowed cups of sugar to my neighbors, but I’ve shared impromptu meals, back yard gatherings around a fire pit, and many glasses of wine with them.
When I shop at Bob’s Produce, that charming store on the corner with their big red apple logo peeking down at me, they not only know my name, but how I like my meat cut.
When I patronize Kay’s Cottage for flowers for my spouse or small gifts, Kay and her husband, Bob, greet me as if I were a family member and fuss over my kids.
When I attend community events (and there are many here to choose from), people do more than comment about the weather, they wave and smile at me, they ask about my family.
After years of living here in Fridley, just 15 miles or so from downtown Minneapolis, I realized it. I have finally made it back to Small Town, USA after all.