For Sunday Scribblings, a fractured fairy tale rather like The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse - but what if you're a little of both?
Once upon a time in a small town lived a little girl with her family. Like many such ordinary places, the town was indoctrinated with "small town syndrome." Pretty much everyone in the town thought small, in order to blend in and remain there.
One resident described being "innoculated at birth" to withstand the limitations of small town life, rather than embracing multiple possibilities and prospects in the big city. Other people traveled to big towns and appreciated the opportunities, but preferred to live in their little towns, where things were predictable and reasonably safe. They didn't like the uncertainty, the excitement, the whirlwind pace of city life.
The little girl had big dreams, but was not encouraged to pursue them. The high school guidance counselor's career advice was that girls who chose to work (rather than stay at home as a wife and mother) could be a secretary; a nurse (being a doctor wasn't suggested) or a teacher. Oh, and maybe a shopgirl in a clothing store.
No other career path was advised, as that would mean going beyond the city limits. And someone had to stay in the small town, even when stores closed and a factory downsized, making it less viable economically. Some people chose to drive to jobs in another small town 16 miles away or 47 miles away, just so they could remain in the cherished small town.
The young girl wasn't convinced; she knew from all the books she'd stayed up late reading and from movies and television shows that there was a big world out there. While it had been pleasant enough growing up in the small town, she wanted to explore new territory. So she followed her big dreams to the big city, where she lived a big life. But some people didn't seem happy about her chosen path.
When she'd return to the small town to visit, hardly anyone would ask about her life. They'd talk in intimate detail about people she didn't know, living in the small town - even in the millenium, girls getting pregnant and married at 17, so-and-so having an affair, another getting laid off from his job - but they expressed no curiosity about her. If she talked about things going on in her life, they'd look at her as though she were boasting or bragging, then change the subject back to something or someone closer to home.
Sometimes she felt offended by their behaviour, which seemed rude, thoughtless and self-centered. She wasn't trying to compare her life to theirs - after all the differences were greater than chalk and cheese. She didn't think her life was necessarily better than theirs; just different. Differences were what made the world go round.
While the small town dwellers were amassing material things, such as a second car, a boat, a lakehouse, she was collecting experiences. And she was curious about their lives; why didn't they want to know about hers? Were they worried that something about her life might seem interesting and they'd be encouraged to learn something new?
Many small town residents didn't read newspapers or venture too far outside the state or region where they lived. They had their comfort zone and were determined to remain within its boundaries. The girl wondered why they seemed afraid of getting drawn into a bigger life. Were they worried that trying new things might prove contagious? Why didn't they want to know more about the world? Weren't they interested in traveling and seeing places they'd read about or seen in the movies? Why were they content to accept the status quo, without questioning that they might deserve something better?
When she'd go back to the big city, she'd ask other people living big dreams what it was like when they went home to visit. They reported similar experiences - nobody wanted to know about their lives in the big city; they were interested only in talking about themselves and people within their immediate environs.
After a while, the girl and her friends living in big cities found themselves glossing over their experiences for friends and family in the small towns. The city dwellers rarely talked about their own lives, instead politely asking about people and events within the small towns. Gradually the city dwellers returned to the small towns less and less, preferring to expend their energies in living their dreams, rather than diminishing them to suit someone else's narrow boundaries.
Once in a while a small town resident would visit the girl in the big city. Typically it would be a case of "a nice place to visit; but I wouldn't want to live there." Occasionally a city dweller would attempt to please others by living in a small town. And for a time, one of the small town residents would try living in the big city. Rarely did these experiments last: after all, one can't change human nature.
Aesop's Fables: The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse
"A Town Mouse and a Country Mouse were acquaintances, and the Country Mouse one day invited his friend to come and see him at his home in the fields. The Town Mouse came, and they sat down to a dinner of barleycorns and roots, the latter of which had a distinctly earthy flavour. The fare was not much to the taste of the guest, and presently he broke out with "My poor dear friend, you live here no better than the ants. Now, you should just see how I fare! My larder is a regular horn of plenty. You must come and stay with me, and I promise you you shall live on the fat of the land."
"So when he returned to town he took the Country Mouse with him, and showed him into a larder containing flour and oatmeal and figs and honey and dates. The Country Mouse had never seen anything like it, and sat down to enjoy the luxuries his friend provided: but before they had well begun, the door of the larder opened and some one came in. The two Mice scampered off and hid themselves in a narrow and exceedingly uncomfortable hole. Presently, when all was quiet, they ventured out again; but some one else came in, and off they scuttled again. This was too much for the visitor. "Good-bye," said he, "I'm off. You live in the lap of luxury, I can see, but you are surrounded by dangers; whereas at home I can enjoy my simple dinner of roots and corn in peace."