Growing up in a small town you might think that there would be a strong sense of community. No, not for me anyways. Especially in an environment like high school the social system created by a small town makes it more difficult to feel a sense of community than to not. While I may have known more than 75% of my graduating class I had a small group of friends that grew and shrank as high school progressed. The thing is, when everyone knows who everyone is then everyone also knows about you. Things that are true and not are spoken and not forgotten. There’s no chance to move on to new friends or a new beginning because there’s no one else to move on to, or the few that you can will also alienate you because it’s what everyone else is doing.
I guess you get a sense of community when you know most of the people around you AND their parents. However you can know the people around you and not feel welcomed, depleting any sense of community that had been established.
It’s not all bad though, because you may have grown up with the people around you there’s a chance they could be loyal to you through thick and thin. Not always, as I lost my “best-friend” in ninth grade to the black hole of judgement and exclusion based on assumptions and rumors. Then there are the few that you can always count on, and I’m not sure you can call three people a community, but when we get together it creates the illusion of community. I have three friends that I have been consistently close with since kindergarten, I even went to prom with one and had the greatest time. Perhaps it’s because they are guys that it is more difficult to suck them into the evil of the small town gossip mill.
In addition to my three loyal guys I’ve got my best friend who I found among the turmoil of high school. She’s seamlessly fit into my group and made it better to not be the only girl. However we’ve had other people join our group, but they come and go. Although I think we can count on keeping our most recent addition. Us four, now five, stay together and in that sense we’ve created our own community. In the middle of a small town where community seems to be a given, but in reality is actually earned and stolen faster than you can blink, I have found an even smaller better community.
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My family tree on my moms side is slightly messed up in the way that I call my cousins aunt and uncle because they’re so much older than me. My mom and her sister, my real aunt, are 13 years apart. Her oldest of three daughters, my cousin, is closer to my mom’s age than mine, and on top of that her three children are also older than me. My aunt’s second daughter has three children, the oldest of which is 5 years younger than me. I’m the awkward cousin with no one my age, except I’m not really the cousin, I’m the second cousin. On top of the extreme gap between my mom and her sister she waited until later in life to have children, which is another reason things are all mixed up.
Unfortunately all of them live in Texas so we only see them once a year and for a short time. We used to take trips to Disney about twice a year but with everyone getting older the idea of Disney sort of lost it’s magic. Now the youngest three are the only ones left that really want to go to Disney so when they come my mom and I don’t even pay for park passes and we just spend time with them at the hotel. It’s still worth it just to be able to spend some time with my cousins.
My dad’s side of the family is much easier to follow, sort of. My dad’s brother doesn’t have children so that keeps it nice and simple. However if you really want to get into the extended extended version of my dad’s family there’s more than I can count, name or think of. Every three years they have a huge family reunion, organized by the oldest women of the family, referred to as the aunts. There’s so many that they rent out an entire condo complex by the beach and I swear I never recognize anyone. Most of them keep in touch, I get a birthday card once a year from some of them. Which is fair since I don’t even know how I’m related to most of them. However I am one of the only ones in the family left with the original Sir name, even though I won’t be carrying it on. I guess it’s just a family tradition to have girls. I think my brother and two other cousins, who’s names I don’t even know, will be the only ones to carry on the name.
I may not be close with many of my extended family, but they are still family and in my experience, on either side of the family, if I ever needed something I wouldn’t be alone.
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One of my good friends likes to frequently, drunkenly, say “I’ve got family that aint blood and blood that aint family.” I think we can all relate to that. You’ve got that one family friend you refer to as “aunt” or “uncle” or you even have a best friend that you consider to be family. Which to me is rare, just because I don’t really enjoy getting that close to people, self protection and what not.
My family that is blood: My divorced parents, mom and dad, and then also my brother.
Family that is not blood: My best friend Hannah.
Currently I live at home with my mom and unfortunately my 22 year old brother. He’s not the easiest to live with, although I guess most siblings aren’t. We just moved out of our “family” home that my mom and dad built over 20 years ago when they got married. Somewhere small, where we’re all smushed together. Not the ideal living situation for someone who just wants to be on their own. Recently I’ve spent more time out of the house than in the house. Usually with Hannah. Or if I am home, Hannah is probably there or going to be there. I spend zero time with my dad, considering he moved to the keys this past summer, even though we keep in touch. This begs the question who’s my family?
I spend most of my time with Hannah and am closer to her than anyone else. However I grew up with and live with my mom and brother. While I know they are of course real family, but if we counted family as the people you spend most of your time with and are closest with then do they even count? Especially since this summer I’ll be moving out to live with Hannah full time, two hours away from where I currently live. And on another note, do you count your animals as family? I do.