By Ginger Kuenzel, DLE Alum, Speaker, Author, Editor, Translator, Corporate Consultant, Adirondacks Enthusiast, Hague, NY/ Englewood, FL
Author’s Note: Most of the year, the sleepy lakeside town that I call home has about 600 residents. The only things that remain open during the long winter months are the real estate office and the post office, which means that you can either buy a house or a stamp. But at this time of year, second-home owners and tourists flock to town, expanding the population to many thousands. The town’s single restaurant and our small general store have now re-opened, and people are out and about. Nonetheless, the town still retains its quaint charm.
There’s a lot to like about living in a small town. For instance, one could easily get through an entire lifetime here in Hague, located in New York’s Adirondack Park, without ever having to parallel park. There are so few cars here that you can always just pull into and out of a space along the street, no reverse ever needed. Of course, there are lots of other things that make small-town life so wonderful. In fact, here’s what I always tell people about Hague: Hard to get here, harder to leave. And here are a few of the reasons, in no particular order.
I recently had to make a trip to the Emergency Room in the next town when I sliced my finger with a knife. The receptionist asked me if I had ever been there before. I thought for a moment and then responded, “I was born here. Does that count?” Of course, I wasn’t in her computer since my birthdate was long before computers were even invented. But the point is, only in a small town are you likely to go back to the very same hospital you were born in, many decades later. And, in fact, since they’ve now built a new facility next door and replaced the original hospital building with a senior living center, it would even be possible for me to start and end my life at the same place.
My hairdresser Bridget is also in the next town. She comes from a big family, and her parents come from big families, so she’s related to nearly everyone–in every town around–either by blood or marriage. And the fact that there have been lots of failed marriages and subsequent remarriages further expands the pool of relatives. There aren’t so much family trees here as family wreaths. The result is that Bridget’s salon is the ideal place to hear all the gossip about everyone. I figure since I’m not related, maybe she doesn’t tell tales about me after I leave. But then again, how can I be sure? That’s why I often wear my T-shirt that says: “Careful or you might end up in my novel” when I go to see Bridget. I like to keep her on her toes–and wondering who’s going to talk about who first!
It was very wise of my parents to give me a name that nobody else in town has. Last summer, I was at the Hague Market checkout. As I was leaving, Jim, the owner, said, “See you later, Ginger.” Suddenly another customer in line asked, “Ginger? I think we might have rented your house back in the 90s!” It turned out to be true. We had only had contact by phone back then and had never met. What a pleasant surprise to finally meet her. She had returned for another vacation with her family and was renting someone else’s house.
There are a million other reasons to love living in a small town. When my well pump broke recently, lots of people offered to help out–either by letting me use their shower or by dropping off containers of water at my house. And although having no water might seem serious at the moment it’s happening, it’s obviously a small inconvenience compared to those who experience more serious issues, such as a fire or medical emergency, or the death of a loved one. In those cases, too, people here pull together and selflessly offer the kind of comfort and support that can only come from those who know you so well.
The only disadvantage about living here is that I can’t simply dash to the store looking like a wreck–because I’m bound to run into people I know. Of course, they don’t care nearly as much as I do that I have coffee stains on my shirt and paint in my hair. That’s just not the kind of thing that counts here.