Living in Mitford


With apologies to my city-dweller friends–on Chicago’s northwest side, in Brooklyn, Los Angeles, San Francisco’s Mission District and Seattle’s U District–not to mention you suburbanites, I must write an ode to small-town life.

Often I walk to the bank, chat up the tellers while they process my merchant bag of tricks.  Onward to the post office where we know names, notice haircuts, chuckle. A quick trip to the grocery store never takes five minutes. Eating out inevitably means seeing friends across the room. Connections cross over and under the stream of daily life. Each foray out the front door involves another point of contact.

For everyone in this town of 10,000 I know by name, there are five I know by sight.  Nodding acquaintances, I believe they are called. 

This morning, with our car in the shop, my husband dropped me off at Joe & Sugars at 7:00 a.m.. Outside it was  cold, dark, wet and vacant. The downtown café was full of men gathering for breakfast. A lamp in the window glowed as groups of guys huddled around tables, pulling up chairs, crowding in two more. No laptops, no iPods, no TVs suspended from the ceiling, just a steady stream of masculine murmurs and laughs.  The male camaraderie was more pleasant to me than the smell of fresh-baked scones and the blast of warmth when the ovens opened.

There is something profound about a daily/weekly breakfast with friends.  The architecture of friendship begins with sharing meals, sharing stories and opinions, sharing time.  As I sipped my tea and wrote in my commonplace book, I tried to suppress a silly grin. I’m living in a Jan Karon novel! 


11 thoughts on “Living in Mitford

  1. Perfect! Every small town needs a place like this, and big cities would surely benefit from more of them! The local mom and pop type places have so much more to offer than the big name brand places! Give me the Blue Banana any day!

  2. I LOVE this post!!!  Luke and Cassie were both surprised when they went out with me over Christmas vacation how many people I now know in our small town.  Everywhere we went, people said hello.  We’ve lived here 14 years but only in the last three since attending church and substitute teaching in town have I met the people of the community.  I love it.I’m not sure where our early morning coffee klatch meets, but I know the popular local lunch cafe and Joe & Sugars sounds a lot like it.Countdown on your job??

  3. on Christmas eve day, someone from the church – the oral surgeon in town, so a very wealthy and put-together guy – dropped by to deliver a very sweet gift to our family. Scott was napping in the basement, kids were doing whatever they do, and i was letting the dogs out, in my pajamas, with wild woman hair and boots on – AT FOUR O’CLOCK IN THE AFTERNOON. My first thought was ‘OH NO. Cynthia Cavanaugh would NEVER be caught DEAD like this!’ and after I got over myself, I thought – ‘except for all the times she was looking for cat in the backyard and was wearing her bathrobe’. :)Needless to say, I am indeed married to ‘Father Tim’ and we went to seminary at Nashotah House – from where Jan Karon has an honorary doctorate. If you can picture Mitford, you can picture Baraboo. That’s us!!! Our little Baraboo has 10,500 people. I never thought I’d enjoy living someplace this small — and now I can’t imagine living someplace bigger.  LOVE your post!

  4. Our town is larger than yours but after living here so many years I have a similar experience. First-name basis with people at the bank and post office, and if I go to Wal-Mart on a different day or without one of my kids, several of the staff will comment on it! I have never liked big cities (having grown up in rural Africa) but as I get older I find that my “ideal” community size has gotten smaller and smaller!

  5. I think Southern towns are like that, and even some of our larger cities ~ especially since we tend to speak to everyone on our *beaten path* whether we know them or not When we first moved to Canton, the population numbered about 9,000; now we’re closing in on 25,000; and county-wide has almost topped 100,000.  Even after living here 22 years, I’m still consider *one of those new-comers*Is your town gaining or losing citizens?

  6. this was such a good post…i feel like that too. we live in a very small rural town of about 1100. i work at the one cafe. it is a throwback to the 50’s without trying to be a throwback…lol!   (james dean crashed his car about several hundred feet from here back in 1955) you just wouldn’t believe how many people stop to see the memorial in our parking lot and have a cup of coffee and a burger. it is so interesting to see these folks intermingling with the old ranchers and cowboys. it is a great connecting place in the middle of nowhere!julie harris

  7. Yes, I like our small town too.  At the grocery store here, when I was sick and had to be gone off and on, the ladies at the cash register always knew if I was home or not by what was bought.  Pizza and box chicken- I was gone, vegetables and meat, I was home.  That being said, I felt good for the kids, they had people looking out for them.

  8. Two great lines Carol – “Nodding acquaintances I believed they’re called”. And the “architecture of friendship…” I so believe that second comment that I teach that a family is a group of people who eat together.

Comments are cinnamon on my oatmeal!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s