Just a Small Town Girl…

Well I was born in a small town
And I live in a small town
Prob’ly die in a small town
Oh those small communities…

Tonight my wee little family packed up the stroller and drove out to downtown Zeeland around 6:00pm.

This was supposed to be a BIG weekend!  I was going to call friends.  We were going to go out!  I was going to advertise and raise some money for the American Stroke Association!  This was going to be BIG!
This was my weekend to have Pursey Gallore, the purse from Project: Purse and Boots, the blogger movement created by Lori to raise money and awareness for Stroke Prevention.
And then life happened.  I didn’t have time to call anyone or set anything up.  In fact, unless it’s all planned out ahead of time, where I live?  Isn’t really the kind of place you can just quick dress up fancy and go raise some money.
As we wandered down the quiet streets of downtown, through the crispy orange leaves, I recognized the smell of fall.  But not just any smell of fall…the way fall smelled when I was much, much younger.
And I suddenly felt like I was visiting my childhood.  We were giving Pursey Galore a tour of what our lives have been like being from and living in a small town.
First we wandered down Church Street.  This was one of the very first streets ever in Zeeland.  We passed three churches in the one city block that we walked.
One was the church that our high school held our senior baccalaureate services in.
The next was Second Reformed Church.  The place where Cortney went to church as a kid and where we were married and where Cort’s dad’s funeral service was and were Eddie was baptized.
This is the church we are currently members of.  I like this church.  I like it’s small feel.  I like the personalized feeling.  Right now though?  I am just not sure it is “our” church.  But we do love it.
Then we wandered diagonally across the street to First Reformed Church where I was baptized and went to church as a kid.
First Reformed was also the very first building in Zeeland.  The church?  It is old.  And it’s really quite beautiful.  I really should do a whole post dedicated to certain memories I have of growing up in this church.  Most of them are quite lovely.  And I have been searching for that for my family for the past 5+ years.  
Being on the corner of Church and Central reminded me of walking to piano lessons after school, parking on the road for church in the morning, and marching to the cemetery with the band on Memorial Day morning.
We wandered back up Central and took a turn down Main Street.
We wanted Pursey to “Feel the Zeel”, so we took her window shopping in our small town. After realizing that clearly every. single. store was closed by 6pm on a Saturday, I started wishing we had done this in the morning–when people would have been around for me to share Pursey with.  But instead, I just shared our town with Pursey.
We brought Pursey to Frank’s (which was closed).  Frank’s has the best burgers in town.  Two of my aunt’s worked there when they were in high school.  My dad and his friend (my uncle) hung out there.  It was the place to be.  Now the major figure-heads (business owners, old names, etc) of our community gather there each day.  There is a LARGE round table in the middle toward the back.  Everyone in town knows only those guys sit at the round table.  Cort’s grandpa Stan Sluiter sits at the round table.
The only way to follow up Frank’s is to then stop in front of Zeeland Bakery.  They have the best donuts in town.  In high school, we used to con teachers into letting us make “donut runs”.  Somehow I usually found myself one of the students that was involved in said “conning” and we would run to one of our cars (which was dumb because we were usually parked as far away as it would have taken to just walk to the bakery), and we would drive faster than the 15 mph speed limit and get a bunch of fresh donuts for our class.  ah…Zeeland Bakery.  Yum.
Across the street we passed Bunte’s, the local pharmacy.  When I was little we used to stop here with my mom after getting groceries to pick up prescriptions or to buy cards for people at church or who were having a birthday or anniversary.  My mom loves to send cards.  This was also where we got our film developed.  He he…film.
Together we discovered new stores that I didn’t know existed.  Eddie and I made a deal that we would come back to this cute toy store when it was open.  Cortney and I reminisced about all the stores that used to be here when we were kids.  We talked about how there used to be awnings lining either side of the street.  and how the street itself?  Used to have a zig and a zag in it.
Then we discussed how our parents used to do this same thing.  Talk about which stores used to be there.  Talk about when there weren’t awnings.  And when the street?  didn’t have a zig or a zag, but kids would drag race down it.
The Howard Miller clock feels the Zeel.

Yes, another church.  Pursey lost count after four.

 Pursey tried to stop for some salon and spa treatments at Milt’s. I tried to explain to her that not only was Milt’s not open, but it was just a Barber Shop.  Just dudes getting haircuts.  Pursey was incredulous.  She is apparently too glamorous for a barber shop.

 But when she learned there had been a REAL queen right here in Zeeland?  She warmed back up to our small town…and needed her picture taken with the royal landmark.

 Before getting back into the truck, we stopped to look at the bikes in the Zeeland Schwinn Shop.  The owner is my parents’ neighbor.

Our last stop was for dinner at J’s Again.  It’s the kind of restaurant that has the gumball machine and a tackboard full of announcements in it’s entry-way.  There is a counter where you pay a handwritten check and you can buy a york peppermint patty after dinner as a treat.  It’s the kind of place where you seat yourself.  It’s the kind of place the old folks (which are 98% of the clientele) comment on how cute and well-behaved your curly-haired little boy is.  There is no alcohol on the menu.  There is a picture of the last supper on the wall.
Eddie and I had the grilled cheese.  Cort had a burger.  Pursey?  She was too cool to eat. 
As we climbed in the truck I thought of how sad I was that I didn’t get to share the story of Pursey with anyone.  I didn’t earn even one donation for such an important cause.
But what I did get to do?
Pursey came to school with us to fix my computer

Pursey watched the U of M/MSU game with us

Pursey helped me create a fall wreath instead of spending too much on a pre-made one
Pursey helped me to spend time with my family today–something I have been earning to do for WEEKS.  We all spent the WHOLE day together as a family just being together as a family.
Today I went back in my mind to my childhood, but I also spent a whole day in the now, with my little family.
Cort and I talked about how great it was to go to family-owned businesses.  The guy who fixes our cars?  Went to HS with my dad.  And his son?  Went to HS with Cortney.  That is where we live.  Where the guy whose name is out front is also the guy who is behind the counter helping you pick out your tulip bulbs or your grass seed.
We strolled and chatting and pointed out differences and memories.  We laughed and smiled.  We showed Eddie our kidhood.
And it was all thanks to Pursey.
No I cannot forget from where it is that I come from
I cannot forget the people who love me
Yeah, I can be myself here in this small town
And people let me be just what I want to be
Please consider going to Project: Purse and Boots and making a donation–however small or large–to the American Stroke Association (the donation button is on the right side of the page in the sidebar).  And then forgive me for not throwing a bigger bash.

*Lyrics from Small Town by John Mellencamp

About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.


  1. Looks like Pursey had a great time! I love being from a small town. I love the fact I can look through childhood pictures & see the same faces regardless of what grade I was in. The same kids who were my friend in firt grade also graduated with me.

  2. Katie, I never knew that Zeeland was an actual place. I thought it was a made up name you know, to protect your privacy. I know, I'm a dork. Blame it on my Canadian citizenship.
    You are adorable and glad that you took us all on this journey.

    PS. This is a fantastic cause and a great idea! Should send that purse up my way!!! Promise it wouldn't freeze in our polar like conditions.

  3. Blue Moon Girl says

    I didn't know about Pursey! That's complete awesomeness and I'm going to have to head over there today too!

    Looks like Pursey had a great time! I love small towns. Love. I'm also glad that you got time with your family today. A much needed thing for all of us!

  4. Lori @ In Pursuit of Martha Points says

    This was such a lovely post, dear dear lady.

    And you know, sometimes even the big city mouse needs to appreciate the beauty of where the country mouse lives.

    You are wonderful.

  5. Life rained on my plan too. BFF is on bed rest and I can’t go out and have fun without her, so instead, I’m taking Pursey to go to the pumpkin patch with my entire family. I’m excited.

  6. I tried to subscribe to your rss feed, but had a problem adding it to google reader. Could you please check this out.


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