For those of you who don’t “know” me, I was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Toronto has grown in leaps and bounds since I left at the age of 23, but even back then, it was a big city with subways and traffic gridlock (the Don Valley Parkway, which runs north-south, has justifiably earned the nickname the Don Valley Parking Lot).
Unlike a lot of 23-year-olds, I didn’t move to a bigger city. Instead, I moved to the relatively small town of Peterborough, Ontario, roughly 90 minutes northeast of where I grew up. I left for a good job (Personal Credit Manager – Canadian Division, Liberty Mutual Insurance Company) and stayed for about four years, earning a promotion to Canadian Division Credit Manager. At the time, I was the youngest Division Manager in the company’s history.
My first month in Peterborough was tough. It seemed as though everyone knew everyone and I was decidedly an outsider. Not only that, I was a “boss,” and on top of that, I was from Toronto (city folk were treated with a modicum of suspicion). I can still remember the day when a young woman by the name of Earlene invited me to her home for Sunday dinner. “My mom thinks you must be lonely,” she said, clearly nervous about inviting a manager (although not her manager) to dinner. I jumped at the chance.
It was clear that Earlene’s family lived a modest existence. There was homemade mac and cheese and coleslaw for Sunday dinner, and coffee with CoffeeMate (I’d never had CoffeeMate before that) for dessert. I think there might have been some sort of apple crisp or cookies, as well, although for the life of me I can’t recall. But that coleslaw was the best I’ve ever tasted to this day.
Earlene’s invitation and friendship led to many other friendships. By the time I left Peterborough four years later to move to the much bigger city of Mississauga (for another job opportunity, and with somewhat of a broken heart), I’d been a bridesmaid in two weddings.
It’s been a few years, and more than a few moves, since those Peterborough days, and sadly I lost touch with Earlene long ago, but I was reminded of the warmth and hospitality of small town life when I opened the September issue of The Briar Crier. The Crier is a community news magazine for the residents of Green Briar and Briar Hill, a golf course community in the smallish town of Alliston, Ontario. It’s published locally by a wonderfully supportive woman, Marie Fischer. The September issue includes a two-page feature about my writing journey. Two pages. Now that wouldn’t happen in Toronto!
The article was written by BL Storrie, a talented and hard working freelance writer who took the time to interview me on my back deck on a warm summer afternoon. I’m so appreciative of (and somewhat embarrassed by) her kind words (honestly, I’m not that nice — though I do LOVE to golf). If you’d like to read it, here’s a link to the PDF: P.22 23.
Do you have a small town story? I’d love to hear about it. Be sure to leave a comment!