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Coming Home: In a small town, each child is 'everybody's baby'

"How's everybody's baby doing?" That's what the mayor of my hometown asked me at a community meeting last week. Only in a small town would the mayor be so genuinely interested in the newest member of the community. He was about the 20th person to...

Jessie Veeder

"How's everybody's baby doing?"

That's what the mayor of my hometown asked me at a community meeting last week.

Only in a small town would the mayor be so genuinely interested in the newest member of the community.

He was about the 20th person to inquire about our little one that night. Business owners, classmates, old teachers, cops, waitresses, bankers and so on asked about her, because that's what it's like when you live in a small town.

Your baby is everyone's baby.

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I'm sure my friend who had a baby a few weeks after me had the same experience that evening.

Her baby is everyone's baby, too.

And while every mom documents her kids to an extent, I couldn't help but be reminded then just how reported Edie's little life story actually is.

Because I'm a newspaper columnist.

Which isn't something I think about weekly, because well, it's terrifying, but the words I write go out to half a dozen newspapers all across the state every week, and every week I get emails from people cheering us on and sharing their own stories of what it was like to be parents to a baby as wiggly and wild.

You've read about her birth, her first smile, her large shoe collection and her big ol' farts (oh, she's going to hate me when she's a teenager), and I can't tell you how overwhelming it is to realize that this baby is loved by so many.

Maybe it was the energy in the room at a party dedicated to celebrating how far this community has come in the last year, despite the boom and in the face of a current and unforeseen oil slowdown. Maybe it was the fact that I was out doing my job again, knowing that our baby was snuggled up at the ranch with my husband while I drank wine and chatted with familiar and new faces, but the mayor's comment got me thinking.

Growing up in a small rural community you take for granted that there are caring eyes pointed at you at all times. You feel secure in knowing that the stands are full of your supporters at a football game or your first choir concert. And if your parents are late in picking you up after a 4-H meeting (not that that's ever happened to me, Dad) you get to not worry, because there will always be someone there to wait with you.

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But that night we reflected on how our town was getting bigger. We just completed and opened a new multimillion-dollar high school and despite the oil slowdown, families are still moving here with their young children. But as the elementary school classes grow and new babies are born to this now young community, I can only hope that the love and support we feel as new parents is not exclusive to us.

Just because it takes a village, doesn't mean everyone always gets one.

So I hope we're doing a good job out here. I think that's what everyone in that room has had on their minds as they watched our town boom from 1,200 people to somewhere closer to 10,000 in the last five years. There was a fight to not lose one another in a crowd.

Because times are different. Most kids weren't born here to parents who were born here, rendering it more common to be the new kid in town than to have roots here.

More languages are spoken, more perspectives are given, more miles are driven to see the grandparents, and there are more new names to learn. But I hope none of that makes a difference when it comes to missing the bus or having to keep the library open just a few minutes longer because a mom was stuck at a meeting and couldn't get to her child in time.

As a new parent to a new kid in a town that changes every day, I hope each kid gets the chance to take for granted that she or he is everybody's baby. I hope that's one thing that stays the same.

And I would venture to guess that everyone in that room that night, the mayor included, feels the same way.

Jessie Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband and daughter on a ranch near Watford City, N.D. Readers can reach her at jessieveeder@gmail.com .

Related Topics: FAMILYRURAL LIFE
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