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Community is comfort: Small, yes, and boring to a teen, but area is perfect for parents

Voices of the Clarion

Posted: Sunday, March 26, 2006

Comfortable.

Is how I describe what it is like to live in a small town.

Not the word I would use when I was a teen — boring and stupid was the way I used to see it. As a teen there was nothing to keep those of us not into Little League anchored and out of trouble. And when I got into trouble my parents would find out, as everyone knew everyone.

Even as my husband and I plotted our escape to college, returning was not on the radar. We had places to go, things to see and new people to meet. Those plans lasted about one year, then along came our first born.

We knew then we would come home, not just for the family ties but for the tight-knit community we hoped would tell on our kids if they caused trouble, as we were told on.

When we moved to Washington for my husband to finish school, we waited an extra week so we could see the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Soldotna’s first ever stop light — at Kalifornsky Beach Road and the Sterling Highway. Whoowee, good times. Huge turn out and speeches galore. Didn’t think town would change much during the time we would be gone.

Wrong.

It was funny to come back to the peninsula, to find Sterling with street lights and sidewalks. I had lived there the last five years I was in school. I thought it would be 20 years before I would see that. We also discovered that law and order had been put into place on the last frontier and no longer could someone run their snowmachine to the store or the library.

Ahhh, progress. It’s to be expected and even needed.

The town was still small enough. When our oldest went to junior high, some of his teachers had taught my husband and I. Of course they instantly dispelled the finely crafted myth we had woven — the one where we were perfect students and never got into trouble.

It was wonderful to come back after big city travel, where the majority seems to think you’re out to get them or cheat them, to have one of my sons go to get gas and discover he had forgotten his wallet and the cashier said, “No problem. See you back here by four o’clock.” And off he went.

Where else but in a small town does the grocery clerk, in my case Ella, take the time to remember your ups and downs and cheer you on?

We didn’t come back with rose-colored glasses thinking that big city crime, drugs or racism would not touch our children, but that we would be able to keep an eye on it and, better yet, we would be able to put a name to the face.

Despite school shortages, higher taxes and a crime rate that increases, we still love our life here.

And never more than three years ago, March 17, did I realize how much I depended on my community. The family was headed to Sweeney’s annual community dinner when it was announced that we were going to war. It was not an unexpected move, but with our oldest in the Navy we were literally sick with worry for his and the country’s safety.

The rest of the family stayed home but I wanted to be with other people. I went to dinner and did not know were to sit. Without “my guys” I am lost. Then Doty, her husband and their friends had me join them. The evening was so heartening and while I can say it was not fun, the tributes, well wishes, thoughts and community spirit got me thorough it. I have come to rely on that spirit many times: each time my son deploys and as the number of dead military service members climbs toward 2,500.

Each St. Patrick’s Day I go out among the crazies that march in the cold, rain and sometimes snow to cheer them on, as they cheered me.

This year, with the biting wind blowing me around, my youngest leaned over to see if I was too cold.

“Don’t worry about me, I am very comfortable.”

Nan Misner is the newsroom clerk at the Clarion.



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