What I love :: small towns

A mid-week reminder of why I like living where I live. In an attempt to get myself writing more regularly and to better appreciate the urban environment in which I live, I’ll be writing regularly about something or some place I love in and around Sacramento.

Generally these what I love posts are about urban living. But this week I can’t help but write about small towns. In particular, the small town where I grew up. It’s not far from Sacramento–roughly 45 minutes–so it’s still close enough to count.

Ione, California. It has around 3,000 inhabitants and a 3 block Main Street. My childhood was quite idyllic. I was able to ride my bike or walk to school, swim team, 4-H meetings, my parent’s business, friends’ houses, and the like. By my sophomore year in high school, however (which was in another town), I couldn’t wait to leave. I did all I could to spend summers away and I generally succeeded. At the time I didn’t care if I ever spent much time there again.

Things have changed as I’ve grown older and had a family. I have yet to move back, but I’m there often with my family visiting my mom, grandparents, and my sister and her family.

This past weekend we spent a day and a half in Ione. It was the annual Ione Homecoming which is simply a yearly festival designed to encourage the community to get together to celebrate the area and to encourage those with ties to the town to come back home (and has nothing to do with the local schools). There’s a frog jump, kids games, a dance, live music, a parade, carnival rides, a pancake breakfast, a run, equestrian events, and other activities throughout the festival’s 2 day run.

My kids participated in the frog jump. This was my daughter’s first year and she literally jumped right into the action. When offered her frog for the jump, she grabbed it by the neck, walked it over the starting line, and started tickling it to get it to jump. I firmly believe that there are no tricks to frog jumping. You either have a frog that will jump or you don’t. My son did not have a frog that would jump. My daughter did and her little 23-month-old self was quite pleased.

Much to my son’s delight, he was able to be in the parade. When he heard that his uncle was going to be driving a parade entry through the parade with my niece, my son had to be part of it. My sister and brother-in-law were in charge of the soap box derby. My brother-in-law towed the soap box ramp behind his quad. My son was able to stand on the trailer carrying the ramp and toss out candy. If you’ve been to a small town parade you know that the tossed candy is the highlight of the parade for many little kids. My son is no exception. So…to be able to throw the candy was absolute bliss.

For some time, I’ve been interested in moving back to my hometown or to another town in Amador County. For many reasons–another post entirely–my family won’t be moving there, but this weekend had me very nostalgic and really yearning for small town living.

Perhaps it was watching my kids enjoy things that I enjoyed as a child. Perhaps it was seeing so many people out and about. Everything was familiar and comfortable. There’s also something about small towns and getting involved. Or maybe I feel this way because I’m from a small town and was quite involved in activities and have vivid memories of my parents full social and civic calendars. There’s also something about place and feeling entitled to be involved somewhere because you’re from that place. I have yet to pursue a civic outlet in Sacramento. This could be due to my age. I moved to Sacramento when I was 23. I spent my twenties doing what I wanted to do: Graduate school, traveling, starting a career. Now that I’m in my thirties, I’m spending time on my family. Perhaps when I reach my forties, I’ll finally be ready to really reach out in Sacramento and become active.

Back to the point (if this post ever really had one): small towns. I love them. It took me a while to get there, but I finally love them and am so glad to live near many fine ones.

And no, I don’t have any pictures. I wish I did of my son in the parade and my daughter with her frog. But no one seemed to have a camera all weekend. Oh well…

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