As a child growing up in a rural county, I didn’t have soccer practice or dance recitals; no play dates or playgrounds. I had trees to climb, woods to explore, bikes to ride and adventures to be had. I had bare feet in the grass, wincing on the gravel driveway, rocks digging into my soles. I had walnuts to crush, plums to eat, flowers to pick, bugs to catch. I had my little brothers to bug me, my mom to take care of me, my dad to laugh with me and my grandparents to hold me. I had books to read, worlds of words to get lost in. I had Saturday morning cartoons, Sunday morning church, and fireflies to catch every night.
The world I grew up in was small, a close-knit rural area without street lights or sidewalks. Doors were left unlocked and everyone knew each other and, more likely than not, was kin to each other. Men gathered at the store every morning for coffee and news, families went to church picnics and family reunions. Everyone was Catholic and (almost) everyone went to church on Sunday. When the neighbor’s son was arrested and when the school bus driver was diagnosed with cancer, everyone knew. When a family was faced with medical bills they couldn’t afford, there would be a benefit at the church gym; everyone would donate what they could and enjoy dancing, eating, and drinking into the night. Every Saturday my mom and grandma and I would ride 20 minutes into town; groceries from Kroger, a quick stop at the post office and the library, then to Wendy’s for fries and hamburgers. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this quiet little town and the people that lived there would forever influence me, and the person I would become.
Unique Family Characteristics
My family’s earliest traceable ancestors came to the USA in the 1600’s from England. My family has lived in that same rural area for over 200 years. This has resulted in an extensive kinship network. I have more distant cousins than I can count and seem to be related to almost everyone in the small town I grew up in. As a result, I had built-in childhood friends, several of whom I am still good friends with. Along with the support provided by these close community ties comes the truth that news travels fast in a small town. Not only does everyone know each other, they also know each other’s business. This is not always a negative thing, however, as this closeness results in cooperation and collaboration among family, friends, and neighbors. However, geographical mobility has drastically increased in recent generations and more young people are choosing to move to other places, myself included, resulting in fewer intergenerational and familial ties.
Many of my ancestors were farmers and lived fairly simple lives, up until my parents’ generation. In addition to farming, my dad’s father started hauling milk for local dairy farmers in the 1960’s. My dad worked with him and eventually took over the family business full time. My parents have expanded the business quite drastically and now...