Comparing SW Indiana to Life in the Fast Lane

People who live in big cities always ask me how I can live in a small Midwestern town, how I could have raised my children in a small town.  “There can’t be anything to DO,” they seem to lament to me.  It always makes me laugh. So what do you DO in other places? Mostly, I’m sure; you spent time trying to get there.


I remember visiting Connecticut when the discussion centered on which highway to take to get to something five miles away. That’s a real plus for children.


Maneuvering through traffic in other places is a nightmare. There's the perpetual search for parking that can cost more than the car is worth to stop two hours. There is the interminable hike another fifteen minutes to the final destination where the line is another forty minutes to DO whatever it is which can't be seen anyway because of the crowds. That's how people DO fabulous things in other places.


In Newburgh , there is no finer life than the little town by the dam site, especially for children. Life is at your fingertips. It’s easy here to DO all the things people do other places and a whole lot more because we rarely DO lines, waits or parking problems.


Today my family went to the Newburgh Parade. We walked from my house.  I’m sure urbanites would laugh at the little provincial parade and make spurious jokes about little unassuming town right along with it, but if you really look at what our town is all about, few towns can boast as much as we can.


Newburgh is not a big town. It’s safe, friendly and a place where children always come first. You can drive the length of it end to end in about five minutes, and at one end you’ll find a major hospital, a woman’s hospital and birthing center, a cancer center, a dental surgery center where the doctors are approachable, reliable and interested. At the other there’s the river and at least three parks for kids.


When my son and daughter in law moved from Boston to China this past year for a nine month stay, their pediatrician’s office called my house, here in Newburgh , from Boston to remind them of an appointment three months in advance. “I have to call ahead, or I can’t get an appointment,” lamented Agnes. “I had to call before I left for China .” No special consideration.


When Agnes wanted an appointment with the doctor and dentist here in Newburgh over Christmas vacation, I called my doctor and got an appointment the next day.


Educationally, Newburgh ranks among the best schools in the state because everyone cares. My son, who puts together Proton Therapy Units (Cancer treatment) all over the world, still uses Mr. Nance’s high school notes in his work. “I got a great education here in Newburgh ; it was a wonderful place to grow up.”


This past week in the little year round school where I teach, the Garden School in Evansville , we studied pioneers. It was a little lost on the three year olds, but the kindergarteners and first graders loved it. We talked about traveling west, what the kids would take if they were going to go. How hard it was to get stuff and how they had to make a lot of what they wanted themselves. We made homemade root beer to celebrate the pioneers, and were easily able to buy the makings at Wal-Mart right down the street.


Then we talked about those men and women who were pioneers like Lincoln ’s family, then we went to Lincoln ’s Boyhood Home and the rangers who play the roles of pioneers treated us like gold. Because we were a school with little kids, we got to do special one time things. They remembered us from years before. These kinds of field trips wouldn’t be possible someplace else for a hundred hang dog reasons.


I thought about these things as I was watching the little parade with great pride. I thought about how every child who grows up here will probably be in the parade once. I thought to count all the people in the parade who waved at me because we are friends and have been for years. That's child care at its best because that's what memories are made of.


My three daughters and Molly's two children watched it together. I had fond memories of other years when they had all marched, and soon Molly's two little boys would probably march as well. Katy was the first who marched as a winner of the school costume contest. Later, she was in the parade as a volunteer fireman.


Molly was the only female fire cadet in the area, made the front page of the paper and then rode in the parade with the fire trucks.  And Anne was the last who marched with the high school band playing the tuba.


Of all the towns I grew up in – seventeen in seventeen years – from Honolulu to New Canaan , I can truly say, there’s no place like home.