Express gratitude for the place in which I dwell. This one should be interesting at the least. I haven't been overly grateful for this town.
(If you are anal retentively (is that how to say it?) checking the list of things I am supposed to write about you will notice that I have skipped some. I did this because I have now written two back to back on family and the topic for me needed a bit of a breather. I’ll come back to it. Or not. )
Back to the post at hand. When I was in university I had the opportunity to plan a speaker’s series. One of the people who we hosted was a woman named Wanda Urbanska. She had written a book about her experience with her husband in which they moved to rural Virginia to take over a family orchard. The book was all about moving to a small town and I thought it was remarkable. I wanted to do it. More accurately, I THOUGHT I wanted to do it. What I really wanted was to be a Harvard educated, daughter of a wealthy family, editor of magazines and newspapers who had the option of moving to the family orchard, dedicate all my time to writing books and get paid to go on speaking engagements. That is not the same as living in a small town.
I have lived in predominantly Urban settings for most of my life. I love cities. Most recently we lived in Ogden and we only moved from there because of immigration laws which prevented same sex couples with partners from foreign countries to apply for any legal status in the United States. I would not be sad if we had stayed there. But, we came to Canada and in a very “round about” way we ended up living in this small Northern town in Alberta. My experience with it overall has not been a great one. As a result of this post I am re-assessing, and lucky you, you get to follow along with it!
Here is what I like about where we live and by extension, what I am grateful for.
1) We live on an acreage. Living in the country without very close neighbours is something I adjusted to very quickly (in spite of being resistant) and I doubt I could revert back to living in a suburb or city. I don't like crowds or lots of traffic and having neighbours knowing what I'm cooking on my barbecue or if I'm home from work etc. Etc.
2) My drive to work is without traffic, traffic lights, and usually without delays of any kind, other than the occasional moose or combine in the road. I love the calm time back and forth to work.
3) My kids have had an excellent experience in school. Max has had the best experience of them all so far - and it hasn’t been without some difficulties - but the school and the two principals we have had are great. Max had a grade one teacher that was brilliant and his teacher this year is doing excellent things with him. The aides have done things with the kids like sending home Mother's Day cards for both Shel and I. We have felt acknowledged and accepted as an "alternative" family by the school with few exceptions.
4) There is a library here and getting a book, even if they have to order it in, is fairly easy.
5) I have met some wonderful people. My position in the restorative justice program in particular has been significantly positive in terms of the connections I have made. I am surrounded in this program by remarkable supportive and uplifting women.
Here is what I don’t like about where we live.
1) It is a small, conservative area. Shel and I have been out to eat where we were not waited on and the serving staff completely ignored us because we are lesbian.
2) Being small and conservative there are no gay and lesbian resources, certainly no other out lesbian or gay couples, and no opportunities to participate in any gay/lesbian activities or groups or social activities.
3) I am way, way , WAY too far from my family and my friends.
4) There is no movie theater. We used to go to movies weekly and love the theater experience. There is no movie theater anywhere close enough to be worth visiting. I don’t want to drive for almost two hours to get home after going to a movie.
5) There is no book store in this community. Most of our expendable income prior to moving here was spent on books. I love browsing in bookstores. Living so far away from a bookstore means that when we DO travel somewhere there is one, we have many other things on our list to accomplish and we don’t have the time to spend browsing.
6) There are very few restaurants and no ethnic food restaurants in this town.
7) There are limited cultural activities for us to participate in either individually or as a family.
8) In order to do anything, we have to drive.
9) Trying to get any services – like plumbers, electricians, contractors, and so forth is difficult. Much of the employment in this area is driven by oil and the journeymen are kept very busy with work that is more time consuming and more lucrative than coming out to my house to get toys out of my drain would be for them.
10) There is no competition when it comes to businesses and so things are expensive. People can afford to charge what they want for items they bring into the community.
11) I was going to write that it is difficult to make friends here, but to be honest I don’t think that is entirely the responsibility of the community. I do know that others who have moved here have had difficulty making friends, but I have to admit that I am a hard nut when it comes to that anyway so I bear SOME responsibility. It has taken me longer than anywhere else I have ever lived to make decent friends . People here have been more openly mean to us than we have experienced before and we've been horribly betrayed by people we DID trust which has made me dislike the place even more. But I have met some amazing people who have impacted my life deeply and whom I genuinely love.
Overall my list of reasons for disliking this community are greater than my list of what I am grateful for. I knew this to be true when I started out on this little venture but didn’t realize the difference was quite so stark. In the end, and what I have maintained for some time, is that as long as this is a good community for us to raise our children in we will remain here. For now that is the case, and so I guess I am grateful that I live in a place where it is great to raise kids.