As I write this week's column I am expecting the birth of our second child at any moment (literally). This upcoming major life event has me waxing nostalgic to my days as a young girl growing up in Northeast Michigan and pondering what it means to raise children in a small town.
When I was younger I couldn't wait to leave Alpena and see what else was out there. I always expected I would return someday to raise a family but never really understood the full value of that statement until I actually had a family of my own.
When I did return to Northeast Michigan after college it was sooner than I had expected originally. I felt a little short-changed in my intentions to explore the country. But as I've mentioned before, events unfold just as they should and I couldn't imagine calling any other place on the map my home.
Prior to getting married and having our first child my husband and I thought Alpena was a special place but the true beauty of this area didn't unveil itself until we brought a new life into the world. As our daughter grew it was as if I was seeing the world brand new, all over again. Alpena took on a new glow when I viewed it from the perspective of our daughter. Now, on the eve of the birth of our second child, I am once again looking forward to the rejuvenating perspective a child can offer on the surrounding environment.
My husband and I have both been offered jobs in other towns and other states but each time we are approached our first response is that of pure and strong investment in our community. Could we ever leave this place? I know you should never say never but we would have to be in a dire circumstance to even consider leaving Northeast Michigan. For my husband, this is saying a lot because he isn't an Alpena native. However, he has adopted Alpena as his hometown and fully embraces all that Northeast Michigan has to offer.
I love the fact our children will learn and grow in the same warm and friendly community that I grew up in. I can't imagine not having extended family members nearby for friendship, love, and the occasional emergency rescue. I also love how Alpena is big enough to offer space to grow while remaining small enough that you don't get lost in the crowd.
Alpena is relatively safe, somewhat insulated from the harsh realities of the world, and offers natural beauty that rivals any 5-star beach resort or woodland oasis. In my opinion it is the ideal place to raise a family and there are "products of Alpena" making impactful positive changes all over the globe. Sometimes we are surprised when we hear stories of these Alpena folks making a name for themselves in other parts of the country but we shouldn't be. They had the best of beginnings in a community that is ideal for cultivating one's true potential.
I understand that not everybody can or will want to stay in Alpena but it's hard to argue with the fact that it offers a superior quality of life for those who choose to call this place home. My husband and I both travel for work and the more we see of other cities the more we appreciate this community. We are only moments away from rivers, lakes, forests, art galleries, unique restaurants, museums, and so much more that it's hard to imagine people still make comments like, "there's nothing to do around here "
Will our children grow up and eventually be among the many youth who can't wait to leave Alpena? I'm sure they will. But what matters most is the value this community adds to their lives in the here and now; and the freedom it offers to let them dream big dreams and wish for grand adventures, knowing that if they leave they can always come home. Home to Alpena.
Mary Beth Stutzman's Inspiring A-Town runs bi-weekly on Tuesdays.