The connotations brought to mind by the term “Small Town” don’t come close to accurately reflecting the truth about living in a rural community. Here’s an example – a typical day out and about in the Greater Crapaud Area:
This morning I went to Englewood School to help prepare the Thursday fruit and cheese tray (part of Englewood’s Healthy Eating Lunch & Snack initiative to provide healthy food for every kid in the school). There I met another parent, who I sort of recognized from a long time ago. As we chatted, I learned that we had attended Englewood at the same time, although she would have been several grades ahead, which is why I didn’t really know her. Turns out she lives just up the road from us, and I taught her son (who plays trombone) at the Englewood Band Camp last summer. While we sliced fruit, various teachers walked by for one reason or another, including:
the Phys.Ed. teacher: my older brother Kerry.
the Grade 5 teacher: was in Kerry’s class all through school, and is married to a guy I went to high school with. She’s also our third cousin.
the Music teacher: a friend of mine – we were in Music together at UPEI.
the Grade 4 teacher: married to one of my best friends in high school.
And the kids! Kids of friends. Kids of cousins. Kids of former classmates…
Then, somehow word had gotten to the Grade 1 teacher that I was there, so she shows up to give me homework for Riley who has been home with the flu all week.
All this happened in less than an hour, after which I head over to the Pharmacy in Crapaud. I sort of recognize the pharmacist, but can’t figure out who she is. I ask her if she has any Oscillococcinum, a homeopathic flu remedy, but they don’t carry any homeopathics. I move on to look for acetaminophen. A couple of minutes later, the pharmacist calls me from the back, “Oh, Dale! I found what you were looking for! I almost forgot – Jocelyn [the former post mistress] always used to have us keep some homeopathic remedies in stock.” Thanks! Obviously, she seems to know who I am, but I still can’t figure out who she is. Then I go to pay for my stuff, and the woman at the cash register is another of Kerry’s former classmates.
Then, I go to the library… But you get the picture. A very large percentage of people who grow up in this area never leave, or, if they do leave, eventually return. This is true for a lot of communities in PEI, which I think says a lot about the importance of connection – connection to place, to family, to community. I’ve always felt that connection, which is sometimes hard to explain to others who haven’t experienced it. Even when I did move away (to Toronto for 7 years), I always felt drawn to this place, and knew I’d come back sometime. And here I am – a 10 minute drive from my parents. And, like I’ve said before, there’s no anonymity here, but I love it. I love that everyone looks out for everyone else – for everyone else’s kids. People really care. You have to. A stranger is not just a nameless face – he/she is someone you’re connected to somehow, even if you don’t have it figured out quite yet. So we treat strangers as if they are our cousins – after all, they just might be!
Incidentally, “crapaud” is French for “toad”, but it can also mean “flawed”; specifically, flawed in relation to “gems”. How apt is that! Crapaud, the village, may have its flaws, but at its core it’s a real gem.