As some of you may know, I grew up in Toronto. I lived in several houses in the city, starting in what used to be called North York (before amalgamation), and ending in a part of the city called Cabbage Town, an eclectic neighbourhood downtown, twenty minutes walking distance from the Eaton Centre.
Growing up in the city, I definitely picked up an “us” vs. “them” attitude. I always rolled my eyes when people from Mississauga or Whitby said they lived in Toronto. “You’re not a real Torontonian,” I always thought. I’m not the only one who had/has that mentality. You can literally buy t-shirts and hoodies with “Toronto vs. Everybody” written on them. If those were around when I was a teenager, you can bet that I would have had one.
Now, having married a country boy from Kemptville and lived here for over five years, I don’t get the elitist attitude that people from big cities have when it comes to small towns. I recently interviewed an interesting couple from Montreal who were quite thrilled to be making Smiths Falls their new home. SMITHS FALLS. A far cry from the bustling streets of Montreal. They told me lots of people ask them why they moved to Smiths Falls, to which they reply: “Why not?”
I get a similar reaction sometimes when I am talking to my Ottawa or Toronto friends about where I live. A look of pity washes over their face, “How do you like it out there?” “How often do you get into the city?” “Aren’t you bored?” It’s like pulling teeth to get any of my Ottawa friends to come out here. Even if they have cars (understandably some of them don’t), driving out to the country is a big event. They don’t see the point. Wouldn’t I rather come into the city? It’s so much more interesting…
I get it. Growing up as a city girl, I didn’t understand small towns either. But the longer I live out here, the more I realize how vibrant, cultured and dare I say interesting smalls towns can be. I’ve got a quaint and busy coffee shop down the street from me, a yoga studio, grocery store, hair salon, spa, and consignment store all within walking distance from my house.
Kemptville also has some great festivals and community events, and we keep getting more. I’m thinking of our very first pride parade in June, and the Kemptville Live Music Festival this past weekend that continues to draw thousands of people to the municipality every year. Canada Day in North Grenville is always a treat, with fireworks that knock my socks off. Who needs the crowded streets of Ottawa when you can have such a quality celebration of our country so close to home?
There are a lot of people who really care about the community of North Grenville and want to make it a great place to live for everyone. Just look at the paper every week and you will see at least one group of people raising money for one local cause or another, or offering a free or cheap service that benefits the community. Take the Bodhi Tree Yoga Centre and Get Cronk’d for example. They’ve banded together and created a “yoga on the hill” type experience in Rotary Park, offering free yoga and fitness classes in the downtown throughout the summer. I have always wanted to try lunchtime yoga on Parliament Hill, but now I don’t have to travel an hour out of my way to get some exercise and enjoy the outdoors. It’s right at my doorstep.
The new council also seems very focused on making North Grenville a healthy, vibrant and growing community. They are committed to listening to the wants and needs of the people, and having healthy debates and discussions around the council table so they can make well-rounded decisions for their constituents. They welcome individuals and groups from all walks of life to make their voice heard at council meetings and do their best to get out in the community so they can really take the pulse of what is going on in the municipality they serve.
I had an experience the other day at the coffee shop near my house that reminded how much I love Kemptville. I was there to have one of their delicious coffees and get some work done that I was having trouble attacking at home. It was a busy day at the shop, and they were close to having no tables left. A woman I had met in there before also had her laptop out, and we were both taking up a table each meant for four people. A couple of new patrons entered the shop and were looking around for a place to sit. My co-worker for the day offered them the table and asked if she could slide in next to me. “Of course,” I said, a little surprised but delighted that she would want to share a workspace with me. As someone who spends a lot of time with her thoughts and a keyboard, the company of another person is a welcome addition to my day. I don’t know if this is something that would have happened at a coffee shop in Toronto or Ottawa, but I doubt it.
Am I proud that I grew up in one of the country’s largest, most multicultural cities? Absolutely. Do I miss it on a regular basis? Not really. I have built a life here and I am no longer one of those people that believes Toronto is the centre of the universe. North Grenville is a vibrant, thriving community, and I don’t believe it is the exception to the rule. All small towns have their own unique culture and way of life, and if more people from the big city stepped outside their bubble and relinquished the “us” vs. “them” attitude, their lives would be richer for it. I know mine is.