welcome to our new town . a quaint place tucked away inside the grandness of Montana; for me a return to small-town life i vowed i would never go back to, and for christopher, a kansas city native, a whole new experience altogether .
our first day in our new home the mailman made his first appearance at our front door in the thick of the deepest snowfall the area has had in years . he knocked & when i answered he politely inquired, ‘hi! is this the messenger household?’. having only been homeowners less than three hours the question sounded foreign to me, but all the papers we’d just signed that morning at the title company told me in a tactile sense that yes, this is (now) the Messenger household . he then hand-delivered our mail that had been waiting for our arrival & introduced himself as “your regular mail man”, and went on his way in the snow blanketed neighborhood streets in his little red, white & blue striped postal car . (i hope he has snow tires ) . we were instantly surprised & cheered we had met our first neighbor, josh, the mailman .
we then did what any new home owner would do in a new, unfamiliar town : got ourselves a library card . this may have been further down the list except that we live a three block walk from main street, where the library sits, which delighted me to no end the first time we visited the town . also on main street, for the most part locally-owned, notably: a fantastic brewery, a well-appointed hardware store, our bank, a few coffee shops with gluten free baked goods, a quilt/fabric shop & an ice cream parlor where i spotted two older grandpa-gentlemen sipping coffee and solving crosswords puzzles . they smiled & gave a nod hello .
when we set out to explore our first day here, what we did expect was a small town main street . what we didn’t expect was the bounty of kindness we experienced on our first venture as new residents .
“WELCOME!” the librarian said with a smile . she seemed genuinely excited we had just moved there, and were applying to check out library goods .
and when we stopped the next day at an antique shop we met Anna, who told us how much she loves living here & walking her dog in the neighborhood . she too joined the resounding chorus of “Welcome!” ‘s we started receiving, along with the town water clerk who said the same when i called to set up our water account .
then came the hardware store where we bought ourselves a shovel, naturally & necessarily . the winter here is currently a lengthy & hefty one, the snow in our yard climbing up to my knees . the gentleman at the counter welcomed us to town and talked to us about how magnificent the eagles are to see this time of year . we smiled & agreed - we’ve seen more bald eagles in the last month than in our entire lives, combined .
these sorts of conversations about wildlife & montana living are commonplace here, yet keep surprising me, even though i grew up here & even though i feel like i should be more familiar with them by now . living centrally in the heart of cities for the last decade hasn’t offered the right setting, i suppose, for conversing about eagles, or the trash company telling me we’re not allowed to dump wood ashes or dead animals in our trash can for pick-up . i did not know that was a thing until last week .
the list goes on . steve is our painter-guy, & a complete redo of our house interior is currently underway . j.d. is our carpenter, who’s fixing some carpenter-related things and installing new flooring .
a pleasant beginning, i’d say .
we’re not used to the pausing & the getting-to-know . there’s bound to be similar kindnesses in a large city, but they’re fewer and more hurried . our friends liz & samuel, recent transplants to montana from san francisco have expressed a similar observation . they told us their own enjoyable experience of people saying to them - ‘ come by and visit sometime ‘ which literally means: come to my home & we’ll sit at the table and visit .
reclaiming the lost art of visiting... or maybe this is just a place where visiting never stopped .
a welcoming welcome, to be seen & heard, smiled at and kindly spoken to . and with it a newness of trust being woken up in us . to be looked in the eyes and asked, ‘what brought you here?’, having work done on our home with a ‘we’ll start tomorrow’ and a handshake . there were no contracts to sign, just people wanting to do a great job for you . this is an awakening of trust in us; it’s amazing for chris & i both to recognize the defenses we’ve built high over time that simply expect the worst . i’m seeing them clearly in myself these last few days . the small town is calling me out, inviting me to trust again in the slowness & patience, & in the honor of the handshake .
it feels strange to be here, and we are feeling the strangeness of it alongside a curious comfort . isn’t this what life, doing business & meeting neighbors should be like?
making your place a small town isn’t for everyone, i know ... there are no stoplights here - although we do sport a four-way stop on main street - there’s no movie theater or hipster bar, the restaurant scene is humble, and you can walk your way through town in a matter of minutes . but it’s what we needed in this season of our life and it’s already proving to be refreshing . we’re taking it all in, and ironically in the heart of slowness we are quickly falling in love .