Tiffany G. Timmerman
It was seven a.m., and the deep, clear bong of the bells on the square could be heard clearly as I stepped into my quiet little apartment courtyard. Sparkling dew drops clung on the grass, and the tree branches bowed under the weight of its plump, down-covered occupants. As I strode to the end of the sidewalk, I smiled and raised my hand in greeting to several early morning joggers. The sunlight, like a sweet morning song, did its job to coax me down the sidewalk in the pursuit of the bakery only a block away. What could be better than fresh baked Dutch pastries? On a beautiful Saturday morning, there isn’t much better than that…at least, nothing that I know of.
This sweet little town, nestled in the breadbasket of Iowa’s farm country, seemed to offer more to me than any large city I had ever lived in. Rich in culture, industry, and hospitality, I have yet to find a place much like it. My father likes to call it “God’s country”. Although not as religious as he is, I find myself agreeing enthusiastically. There’s just something about Pella, Iowa, that brings the faith out in people.
Many of us get so caught up in life’s hectic pace that we hardly have time to stop and smell the roses—or pastries. Many times it is our environment, including the cities and towns that we live in, that set the tone for the pace of our lives. I was fortunate enough to experience life at a different pace for a small—but insanely wonderful—amount of time.
Pella, Iowa, although many times overlooked by passers-through, is actually a very pretty, friendly town. With its Dutch architecture, historic downtown shops, and friendly residents, Pella is a wonderful place to visit and live.
Pella, known for so much of its Dutch history, is laden with beautiful architecture and scenery. Being fortunate enough to live not far from the town square, a morning walk could take me down historic red brick paved roads and in front of quaint, Dutch inspired shops. Whether it was just for browsing, socializing, or for a breath of fresh air, these shops provided hours of entertainment and fun. Many antique shops dotted the busy square, promising treasures yet to be discovered and rich histories yet to be revealed.
There was never a time that I could remember, sitting on my front stoop in the cool spring afternoon, that I didn’t see at least half a dozen families, most with children and pets in tow, joyfully strolling past, laughing and talking with each other. This community—what I so lovingly deem a “front porch society”—is the only (and perhaps the last) one of its kind that I will ever be able to have the pleasure of witnessing. In Pella, it was never uncommon for residents, out for an after-supper stroll, to stop and converse with their neighbors, or for an elderly resident to offer a stranger a cup of tea or glass of lemonade. In Pella, children were left to play on the sidewalks, bicycle with their friends around the block, and freely explore the playgrounds while their mothers and fathers caught up with old friends or fellow church members.
It was a place of acceptance, where even my atheist viewpoints were accepted by open, loving, Christian arms. Most—if not all—of the town seemed to operate on the same Christian wave length and stream of information. Neighbors assisted each other with household tasks, invited each other over for Sunday dinner, and complained about the only real crime in town—bike and grill theft by prank-pulling teenagers.
The beauty and architecture of the town also spoke volumes on the character of the residents of Pella. Elegant rows of brick and Tudor style shops lined each side of the street, perfectly framing an elegantly maintained downtown square, complete with large bell tower, and lighted fountain. Tree lined paths edged with colorful tulips and dotted with an occasional bench or sculpture made it the ideal setting for a romantic late night stroll; something I indulged in as often as I could.
If given the choice, I would leave this life of bustling efficiency—even if it was only for one last taste of a red velvet cupcake from Jaarsma Bakery. I would leave it all behind, just to walk the brick paved roads and paths of the town square, or look up once again at the tree lined streets framing such sweet little shops as I have never since seen. What I would give to wake up to the deep bellow of the town square bell, or chime of the clock by the channel.
Perhaps one day I will return to visit, maybe even during May, when the Tulip Festival is in full swing yet again, and the men, women, and children parade around in full Dutch costume.
Perhaps I will wait, visiting the square in the depths of winter, ethereally lit by the lights of thousands of Christmas bulbs, the paths lined with wreaths and garland, and the houses coating in winter snow.
Whenever it is, I know that I will forever suffer the feeling of loss upon leaving such a sweet and quaint little town. I will suffer a degree of regret upon leaving that equals the feeling of peace I feel upon entering.