Here’s the thing about small towns. When you are living in one, you find it despicable. You see every flaw. You bemoan the drivers, the lack of amenities, the small mindedness and the language. Then, 6 months after you are gone, you miss it.
I know most people feel at least a little bit this way about the place they grew up, but my town, Cornwall is really a different place. An anomaly, if you will. It has perfect placement. It is situated right on the border of New York state and is about an hour’s drive from Ottawa and a mere hour’s drive in the opposite direction to Montreal. (As a side note, I have to mention, that there is a portion of the population that has been to neither of these locations). Both of these cities are teeming with high fashion, culture and sophistication, but Cornwall….um….isn’t.
It is a straight up blue collar town, having its history firmly planted in factories, industry and mills. When describing it to my big city friends, I call it a beer drinking, hockey town but, of course, it is much more than that. It’s the kind of place where, if you sit on the front “veranda” long enough, you will be sure to see at least one fully grown man returning a pack of empties on the upturned handlebars of his ten speed. It is the type of small city where if you don’t recognize a person immediately, then you will be able to connect them using only two degrees of separation and finally it is a place where at different points in history, it is rumoured that up to 40 percent of the population was on some type of social assistance. The people with jobs in Cornwall LOVE to throw that last statistic around and it has reached legendary proportions. Employed citizens in don’t so much chat about the weather as they complain about all the freeloaders. Although hockey is definitely up there, bitching about lazy welfare cases is actually the sport of choice.
Now if you think that this is going to be a whiny, city slagging, you are dead wrong. Because if you know me at all, you’d know that Cornwall is like my dorky little brother. I can insult it all I want but God forbid someone else does the same because I then become its biggest fan. The truth is I lived there until I was in my mid twenties and then spent the rest of my time in sophisticated cities across the country all the while trying to figure out a viable option to getting back to my town. I know that I am not alone in this because many of the thirty somethings whom I have met in the swank big cities have also attempted to pack it up and move back to their little houses on the prairie.
As a teen, I couldn’t wait to get out, but now that I have kids of my own, I would like to move back. Somehow, I worry less about my children getting beat up in Cornwall than becoming spoiled yuppie kids who don’t appreciate the good things in life. If you could only understand how ironic this is because I was moved at the age of nine from a big city to Cornwall and I hated it. I believe I may have cried more that year than any other in my life and yet I am willing to do it to my kids. I guess I understand that although difficult at times, my years in the Wall taught me valuable lessons about life and my character. I hope my kids will have depth of character too and not just knowledge of brand names and bling.
So as I write this, in a big city, where life is easy, with a good job, great life and lots of hussle and bussle, I plot ways to give it all up to move back to my (once) stinky little town. Back to the starting point of most of my lifelong friendships and loving family and yes, although loathe to admit it most of my life…. my home.
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