By Corey Breneisen
Twenty-five years ago, I left the small, rural town in Pennsylvania where I was raised to explore the great big world. At the time, I couldn’t wait to leave behind all the trappings of small town life. I never expected to return, let alone return with two kids who will now graduate from the same high school I did; and most likely have some of the same teachers I had; take swim lessons in the same community pool; ride bikes through the same streets; explore the same creeks. Life is funny though and here I am, back where I started.
I admit, I had an idyllic childhood. The small community gave me a taste of independence at a young age. In a town with a population of just under 2500, everyone knows everyone. And with a family entrenched in public service, and as large as mine, it was inevitable that everyone knew me. I had many eyes watching me which was both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, I had many caregivers, people looking out for me and keeping me safe. It meant I could ride my bike to the pool or my friend’s house at a younger age, or explore the town with my gang of cousins 12 and under. On the other hand, there were a lot of expectations to manage.
My escape was our local public library. I would sit in the front room in one of the high back winged chairs (which are still there!) and I would read about far off places and dream about the adventures that awaited me beyond the limits of this town.
Upon returning, I now see the many gifts growing up in a small town gave me. Independence, ambition, a sense of community, to name just a few. I am grateful I can share these gifts with my children. Already, they breathe a little deeper, laugh a little louder and explore a little more.
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