By Annabel Mongahan
Pullquote: The joys of small-town life are many. Or
There’s a chance I’ve morphed into Aunt Bee.
Thirteen years ago, the first day I lived in Rye, I took my kids to the barbershop for haircuts. Looking back, it seems sort of crazy to think of haircuts on moving day, but grooming was a bigger deal back when we were urban. These days my children get haircuts mostly for safety reasons.
Anyway, a woman at the barbershop who also had two sons struck up a conversation with me. This felt new. Strangers never spoke to me in the city, unless we were safely separated by a counter and I had my wallet out. This woman told me that they were packing up their house and moving to Florida because of her husband’s work. She’d been in Rye for ten years and was looking forward to the change. It was a bit of a baton passing moment, with my arrival coming at the perfect time to fill the gap she was leaving. So I asked her, “How did you like Rye?”
“Well,” she said. “It’s a bit Mayberry.”
This didn’t freak me out as much as you might think. I was still in an information gathering stage, quietly listening and taking in my new environment in an “I come in peace” sort of way. And I’d already been given a lot of misinformation. A neighbor told me that I’d never find parking at Rye Presbyterian Nursery School. Another told me that all of the women in town were snobs. (Captain’s log: I’ve been here 13 years; I’ve found tons of parking and I’ve met three snobs.)
Rye’s the smallest town I’ve ever lived in. There’s a chance I’ve morphed into Aunt Bee. Rye is so small that I make note of unfamiliar faces, as they are the exception. Most afternoons I run into a woman at the Stop and Shop who was also on the treadmill next to me in the morning at the Y. Her name is Sarah. Her kids go to school in Greenwich. We share a birthday. I don’t know her, but information like this just rubs off between people in a town this small.
In a town this small, there’s a good chance you know everyone running for office. And they might know you too. The other day I was at a book festival and Assemblyman George Latimer walked right up to me and greeted me by name. Imagine that. For a minute, I thought, heck, I’ve arrived. Then I realized we just live in the same small town. Also, I was wearing a nametag.
Someone else might feel suffocated here. It might bother them that they recognize everyone at Ruby’s on a Wednesday afternoon. It might bother them that they can’t walk down the street crying without someone stopping them to ask what’s wrong. It might bother them that they can’t run to Jerry’s in their pajamas on a Saturday morning without seeing six people they know. Those things don’t bother me a bit.
I love raising my kids in a town where there are adults who know them around every corner. I love that we throw each other’s kids in our cars at a moment’s notice. I love knowing all of my neighbors and most of the previous owners of their homes.
There’s a comfort in all that familiarity. It makes me understand what Norm felt like walking into Cheers each day. Sure, Rye’s a little Mayberry. It makes me want to whistle.