Growing up in a very small town in Missouri hasn’t been easy. I spent 20 years all together and I’m only 22 now. My parents both came from small towns. My dad grew up where I did and my mom grew up in Illinois. They met when my mom was 17. I think my dad was 25 or around that age. They had my older brother right away. My mom graduated high school pregnant with him. They tried for five years to get pregnant again and out came me.
Boy oh boy! did my parents have their hands full. I was different than the other kids. By kids I mean my brother, my cousins, etc. I was sensitive, my mom said, I cried 24/7 as a baby. I was a lot more to handle than my brother and she sure let me know that my whole life.
Honestly, I don’t remember a lot of my childhood. I remember bits and pieces of elementary school, mainly traumatic things like bullying or embarrassing moments. Other than that I don’t remember much. I don’t remember my parents being together; of course I was one at the time they split up. My parents split shortly after my dad met and married another woman. She got pregnant and had my little brother.
I don’t remember my grandpa, who was my dad’s dad. All I know is when my dad lost his dad, he changed. To this very day it still hurts him; that he’s had to live his whole life without him. I can’t imagine. My dad and I are very close and I’m close with my mom, so the thought of losing either one of them absolutely terrifies me.
Now that you have a little background of my life, here’s how growing up in my hometown has been for me personally. In my town there are roughly 12,000 people. How I don’t know, but apparently there are. We have three elementary schools, one middle school and one high school. There is a catholic school that has pre-K-8th grade. After that, they go to the public high school.
Elementary school wasn’t bad by any means. I feel I went to the best one in town. Middle school was weird. It was a really weird experience. I was never the popular kid, but I had friends in every group. There was a lot of drama in middle school. I mean A LOT. There were times I didn’t want to go to school because nobody ever stayed my friend. I always felt like I was never good enough. They always chose each other over me.
High school was a whirlwind. Freshman year there was still a lot of drama. I learned a lot that year. Sophomore year a classmate and friend committed suicide. It was tough. Evan was someone I spent every morning with before school. We were the first two in the cafeteria in the mornings. Our whole class changed after that. I tried to get the school to hold assemblies on suicide awareness, but they complained it cost too much money. There have been multiple suicides from kids in the school district over the years, and it’s always tucked under the rug. The schools never want to address the real issues.
Junior year was pretty normal, nothing really sticks out from that year. Senior year I graduated a semester early with my best friend at the time. We left on winter break and never went back. I bonded with my elective teach junior and senior year. She was and still is the best person I have ever known. She and I both lost someone that year to cancer and they were only a couple weeks apart. It made us grow close to each other.
In my town there’s not much to do. When I was in middle school, the fun things were bowling, the movies and the school dances. Our school dances were lit as hell. The movies were the main thing to do Friday nights. I remember my dad always dropping us off and then picking us up. I used to have a lot of sleepovers. I hated being the only girl in the house ever since my dad and his wife divorced. It was rough being the only girl.
I didn’t like to stay over a lot at friend’s house though. I got a lot of anxiety when I didn’t have my dad around. My mom got my brother and I every Wednesday night until 8:00 pm and every other weekend. She would take us to Laddonia, which was an even smaller town — and by smaller I mean maybe 200 people… maybe.
My grandparents lived there, my aunt and my uncle lived there too. We would eat dinner there, hang out with the family and even go to the church for refuge nights. There was a park right by the church, so my older cousins and I used to hang out there with all of their friends. We did some wild stuff. I always wanted to fit in.
When I got into high school, I became friends with older kids and we always rode around town and just acted like teenagers. I was never the type to party or drink. My dad was extremely strict. I started going to KC Country — which is a place where you do country line dances. I went every Friday night for months. It was so fun. I made new friends.
When I turned 16, I got a job at Dairy Queen and made even more friends. My dad gave me his old Monte Carlo. It had two 15-inch subs, so my car was THE car everyone wanted to ride around in. I loved having my friends with me and we always found something to do.
Growing up in a small town is weird, hard and fun all at the same time. I moved after I graduated and I still find a reason to go back home every single weekend. Some days I want to be there all the time and then when I’m there all the time, I just want to leave. But that’s what it’s like living in small town USA. I’m forever grateful because it shaped me into the person I am today and I am quite happy with that.