The librarian scribbled down information for my new library card, pausing and lowering her glasses after I gave her my address. “My husband and I built that house,” she said.
Requesting the ID to borrow books had seemed like a way to root my family in the small Connecticut community we’d moved to only a week earlier. But what were the chances she meant my address?
“You mean where I live?”
She smiled, perhaps amused by my surprise. “Yes. It was back in ’68. We even spent an extra $1,500 to put in a full basement.”
“I love the basement.” Not all homes in our subdivision had them.
She smiled. “It was worth every penny. We were there a while, but now we live closer to downtown.”
The two of us chatted about the neighborhood. As I left with my daughter, the librarian welcomed us to the community. The small connection to my new house gave me a good feeling.
Making a move here hadn’t been in our plans. Six months earlier, the loss of my job had forced my husband and me to consider a less expensive home for our family. There was nothing scientific about our selection. We drew a bull-eye on a map and found a house we could afford on a single salary. The main street was quaint. The schools were adequate. We packed our belongings and prayed for the best.
Within a month of living here, a pattern emerged. It started that day at the library.
During a trip to the local kid’s haircutters, a mother waiting for her son began to chat with me. We discovered she knew my neighbor, we had two other acquaintances in common, and her son was in the same grade as my daughter.
A week after that, as I waited for my daughter’s park and recreation gymnastics class to end, I struck up a conversation with another waiting mom. She’d moved in a few months before me and offered to show me around town. With our spare 45 minutes until class ended, we piled into her mini-van and I got a tour. During the ride, I learned her friend’s son was in my daughter’s class.
In case I didn’t think the world I now existed in was small enough, at a PTO meeting, when introduced to another parent, she asked where I lived. When I told her, she said, “Oh, I grew up in that house.”
“That’s funny,” I said. “The woman at the library told me she built it.”
“Yup. She’s my mom.”
Every single one of these conversations left me surprisingly comfortable and connected in this new place. Like a necessary bolt in the cog of the community. I battled the coincidence versus destiny theory. It felt like destiny. My life here had snapped together as easily as two Legos.
Over time, the pattern continued. Every corner I rounded, a simple hello would unveil a thin thread connecting me in some way to a person I’d never met before. How was it possible to land someplace quite at random then feel more at home than in the place I’d been raised? Or, for that matter, any other place I’d ever lived before.
Twenty-five years, we’re still going strong. I love this place more than ever.
Over time, I’ve witnessed as friends and neighbors gather to support one another with the enthusiasm of the citizens of Whoville on Christmas morning. We cheer during community events, be it to witness the annual high school homecoming parade or to honor the 200th birthday of B.T. Barnum, one of our most famous residents from years gone by. We gather for support, whether the tragedy of September 11th or ensuring the success of an annual fundraiser to honor the legacy of a three-year-old resident who’d lost his life to cancer years earlier. Those funds help other area families facing similar struggles. Even the church we joined is a microcosm of everything we love about living here.
Most of all, we stand by our neighbors.
Recently, a local coffee shop found their rainbow colored Pride flag removed and burned. A banner flew next to the spot where the flag had been hung that read, “Kindness, community, strength...we’ll get through this together.” The outcry in the town could be heard far and wide. There was a public event to show the business our support. Pride flags began to appear everywhere, too many to count. The town’s first selectman issued a Proclamation to the business in support of their right to display the flag and express their ideals without intimidation or fear. Going forward, the town vowed to show its support by displaying the Pride flag at the municipal center on the anniversary of Proclamation Day.
Moving here I learned the meaning of the word community. It defined the difference between having a place to live versus what it means to truly be at home.
My town is set amidst other communities of more affluence. But its people are proud, salt-of-the-earth New Englanders who understand our outreach to each other makes us stronger.
While I might’ve found this place with very little thought, I’m grateful to the hands of fate, for pushing me in the direction of a place I could finally call home.
And that banner near the coffee house flag reads to me like an ingredient list for the type of place I’m proud to live. Where kindness, community, and strength are a way of life.
Sharon Struth believes you’re never too old to pursue a dream. The Hourglass, her debut novel, was a finalist in the National Readers’ Choice Awards for Best First Book. She is the author of the Sweet Life novels (Kensington), a series of three stand alone titles set in European locales, including Willow's Way, a Reader's Favorite book award winner, and her popular Blue Moon Lake series.
When she’s not working, she and her husband happily sip their way through the scenic towns of the Connecticut Wine Trail, travel the world, and keep their energetic hound dog entertained. She writes from the friendliest place she’s ever lived, Bethel, Connecticut. For essays, please visit www.sharonstruth.com or visit her blog, Musings from the Middle Ages & for more information, including where to find her published work and current projects www.sharonstruth.wordpress.com.