I live in what is arguably the most quaint, picture-perfect town in America. We are so adorable that when Hollywood needed to shoot a movie that took place in a camera-ready small town, they chose our town. In the middle of everything we have a square dating back about a hundred and fifty years that is now lined with specialty restaurants, boutiques and well-stocked gift shops.
I like it here a lot more than I thought I would, and everyone who knows me is surprised. I previously lived in two major cities where I ordered take-out, walked to go shopping and spent a lot of time stuck in traffic. Now I live near pastures, I cook, and the closest Target is twenty-five minutes away. It turns out I like having a lot of distance between me and everything else, and country living provides that.
My husband grew up here, which is why we wound up living in this one-Panera town. It’s the kind of place where people spend their whole lives. Everyone knows everyone — or they know someone who knows everyone — and that one person who knows everyone is my mother-in-law. Forty years of living here has made her and my father-in-law into unofficial ambassadors and local treasures.
My husband and I can never argue in the parking lot of the grocery store or it will travel back to my mother-in-law like some country knock-off of TMZ where she’s a seventy-five year-old chipper blonde version of Harvey Levin. It’s enough to make me paranoid when I go out in public. I once yelled at my son at the Piggly Wiggly then looked up to see three people who knew me. I said to my husband that his family is so well-known and visible in these parts it’s like marrying into the local Kennedys, to which he replied, “Yes, if the Kennedys were poor and dumb.”
My mother-in-law did not appreciate his self deprecating joke. Mostly because the Kennedys are Democrats and she’s not, but she was also annoyed by the poor and dumb part. Let me be clear: she is neither. “It’s only compared to the Kennedys,” my husband explained. “Everyone is poor and dumb next to them.”
I’m not saying we’re hot stuff around here. Maybe tepid stuff. But since our little family arrived a few years ago we’ve contributed to the local flair. For instance, we practically doubled the Jewish population thanks to me and the kids. Every year on Hanukkah my son brings his classmates handfuls of chocolate coins and they love them. However, our other notoriety comes from being one of two families who lost a child to a rare form of brain cancer. When someone makes eye contact and smiles at me at the store it’s sometimes difficult to figure out the context of the greeting. I don’t know if they nod because they feel sorry for me or because they like me. I hate thinking they know me as the mom who lost her son. I like being known as the Jewish mom of the kid with the chocolates.
But I absolutely love being a poor dumb Kennedy.