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City living, but still just a small town girl

When I transferred to Hamline, a city school populated by city kids who graduated with more students than attend all of DLHS, it was difficult to explain where the bandwagon found me.

"It's a pretty small town. We hang out at Perkins or drive around the lake for fun."

"It's not like we don't have running water and cable...well, a few of us don't have cable..."

"It's not that small -- we have a WalMart!"

"Have you heard of WE Fest?"

Trying to detail DL without infesting the suburbanites with images of Hickville or "Fargo" was no simple feat, especially after admitting that a drive through lake country means more cows than Coldstones.

Spending the summer at home is a reminder of all small town life entails: limited options for somewhere to go and something to do and the short span it takes to wear them out, the inability to go anywhere without running into someone you know and the newspaper stories where my interviewees knew me before I could even read the paper.

Growing up in a small town leaves plenty to be desired.

But even as I listen to my friends talk about how excited they are to go back to school where there's something to do -- and as I hear myself tell people I'm happier at Hamline than Concordia because, for one, I love being in the Cities where there's more going on -- I'm realizing how much I love living in my small town.

Tiny towns come complete with their own quirky characters, making me feel like I live inside the set of "Gilmore Girls." The town gossip, the overly statute-oriented city official, the cranky shop owner who loves his customers but never admits it and the guy who walks down the street muttering to himself might seem odd or alarming to an outsider, but they're part of what makes a small town captivating and loveable.

Jake and I went to Pelican Rapids for our two-year anniversary last week to visit Scoops, the sort of shop that makes ice cream cones taste like they did when you were a kid and didn't care about sticky rivulets of raisin rum running down your fingers or how many calories are in each lick of maple nut. Such stores are a novelty in the Big City of chains and franchises and corporations, but here they're everyone's favorite hangout, a community fixture with inexplicable connotations of good times past.

Only in a town like DL can my parents sit down to dinner every night and tell me of another person they ran into who reads my columns, or can I go out Friday night and meet someone who tells me "You talk just like you write" (and fulfill my promise to write her into a column afterwards).

Despite any complaints, my friends and I all admit appreciating DL as our home base, as the small town we grew up in and come home to and would maybe raise our own kids in someday because we value the childhood we had here and feel there's something to be learned living in a community where you might not know everyone, but you always know someone.

That's why when Morgan, Jake and I drove to Eveleth over the weekend to see some friends, we argued over whose small town had the sparser mall, the sketchier hotel, the fewer restaurants to hang out in and gape at local personalities. Because no matter how many dull days we spend in them, we love our small towns.

Many of my friends aren't heading to big cities or huge universities for their "something to do." In the same breath that I tell someone I love city life, I hear myself mention how much I adore my two-square-block school, practically a small town itself.

As I get giddy about going back to school and the city, the soundtrack playing in my head is John Mellencamp's "Small Town," and while I look forward to streaming streets, bustling businesses and "something to do," I feel as though I might have written every line.