Two of my sisters have moved to small towns in Oregon in the past year. Last summer, Susanne moved to Hood River, about an hour east of Portland on the Columbia River, to work at her first accounting job since completing the CPA program at Portland State University. Now, Ellen has just moved to Lebanon to become the Lebanon bureau reporter for the Albany Democrat Herald, a daily paper in central Oregon. (Ellen says it's near Oregon State University in Corvallis, so hopefully she'll meet some people her age!) Sisters, I hope you make the most of it while you're there. I know you are city girls at heart, and Ellen, you are a wanderer like me, but there's something to be said about having the experience of living in a small town sometime in your life.
When I lived in Greenville, I knew people who seemed so rooted to the Mississippi Delta that they would never be able to wash it out of their blood. I sort of admired that and sometimes envied it. They had a certain claim on the place that I, as a total Yankee outsider, never could have had even if I'd lived there for decades. I couldn't have done that anyway — stayed in the same place all my life. I would have gone crazy. My blood itches too much for adventure and variety — I left Oregon as soon as I was old enough to go to college. (Now I would welcome the opportunity to move back, and Steve loves Portland, too. But we are pretty well rooted here in St. Paul, and we like it here, too. From April to October, at least!) But it's interesting and enriching to meet people whose families and heritage define the place where they live. Mom and Dad grew up in small towns before moving to the city, and then suburbia, to raise their family. My dad's grandfather was a historical figure in Camas, Wash., where Dad grew up. In fact, I think he founded the historical society. Our aunt and uncle and cousins in Sherwood, where my mom grew up, own businesses there, have worked and raised their families in the same place for generations. Garrison Keillor writes about those families, too, the ones in Lake Wobegon, who care about the small details of their town (and know everybody else's business) in a way that city dwellers cannot, do not. So I think small-town America is a fascinating place to spend some time. But I wouldn't want to live there forever.