There is magic in growing up in a small town. It’s not the magic of witches and wizards. It’s the magic of people who work together, live together, and forever try to make things better. If you’ve ever seen a small town host a benefit for a child with cancer, you will never again doubt that the magic exists.
There is magic when neighbors come together to celebrate a holiday. Small town parades are often so large that they can be bigger than the audience that is watching it. Everyone salutes the flag when it goes by, age doesn’t matter. It is common to see parents stop and teach their kids to salute when they are just toddlers. There’s a whisper along the route of the heroism of those men who carry the flags. You can see their lips move as they step in perfect unison. The bands usually flank these heros. Many times small towns borrow the bands of the next town over and everyone has to coordinate times to allow children to play and parents to be able to watch both performances Childhood participation is encouraged in every parade. Children often ride floats, bicycles, march, and walk the whole parade route. Parents are proud of where they’re from and want their children to share and understand their pride. Throwing out the candy is always a preferred position for every child. What could possibly make you more friends, and no one is going to care if you indulge now and then as well. Those who are not participating have already claimed territory in the street for the quickest retrieval. Parents meet with friends to find their favorite position for the best viewing. The teenagers know where the water fight happens every year and have planned accordingly. They’ve also determined which friend is giving out the best candy and made sure that it is known exactly where they will be. A holiday is just one of the ways that a small town comes together but it is a time when you can feel the magic in the air.
The magic is not in the number of liquor stores in the town. The magic is not in getting the police report daily so that you know who got pulled over for what. The magic is not in knowing that no matter what you accomplish everyone will always remember that thing that you did when you were fourteen. The magic is not in planning how many fast food restaurants you can hit when you visit the city. The magic is not everyone knowing who you are dating, when you broke up, and why. The magic is not knowing that in order to get a outfit for the dance that didn’t look like everyone else, you had to go to the mall two hours away. The magic is not hearing from the plumber say “I’ll be there soon” and knowing that it means it will be at least two days before you see him. All of these things are consequences of small town living, but they don’t outweigh the benefits.
The magic is in playing flashlight tag in the alley ways after dark. The magic is knowing that dinner time is when the sun is visible between the branches of the tree in the park. The magic is in being able to take your allowance downtown to shop without adult supervision, but your mom may find out what you got her for her birthday because the clerk at the thrift store is her best friend. There is magic in knowing that you can make it almost anywhere on foot or on bike. You know that you own the world when you’re riding through town, that not much can stop you. There is magic in knowing the groves of the tree in your front yard were created by you and the neighbor between the ages of five and seven when it was your refuge from her little brother. The magic is in knowing that your big brother said that the teacher you were getting next year was great, and he was a horrible student. The magic is in knowing which house to go to for the best Halloween candy or to sell girl scout cookies. The magic is in knowing that you belong and if you fall off of your bike in the middle of town, the store owner will most likely come out to check and make sure that you are okay and if you’re lucky you might get a piece of candy for your troubles.
I am the product of a small town. I was a transplant at the age of nine. It is not easy to move to a small town. You will be branded an outsider for years, but if you find yourself accepted, you will forever claim the town as home. It is a hard place to return to because life is forever changing, but I recommend that when you do, you park your car and walk or borrow a bicycle. It’s the best way to remember the roads and the trees. Don’t be surprised at how many people stay in the small towns. Many talk of escaping for bigger things, but many return for the magic.
The thing about the magic is that once you find it, it never leaves you. You can move away but it is always there. You look for stories about small towns and stories about the magic. You look for it where you live. You’ll find the magic in larger communities, but it’s harder to locate. It’s there, but it lives in individuals who guard it carefully and who aren’t willing to give it up. Look for it in politicians and community leaders, for they are the ones who can unite people and pass the magic on to others.
Magic lives in small towns but only because it lives in the hearts of those who live there. What we should remember is that the magic is caused by caring about each other and as long as we feed that it can grow anywhere.