Saturday, June 18, 2011


Jean got me thinking with her comment on the previous post. I started to answer her below but my answer kept going and going. I figured I’d share it here instead.

<< And I've adopted a small town in Central Texas as my home, but as far as the residents are concerned, I'm not from there, and neither was any of my family, so I live here, but I'll never, in their eyes, live here. >>

Ooooh man, I can so relate.

Let me go back to 1985. I had just graduated HS when my parents moved to a small town in FL. Literally I went from major shopping centers and mass transit to cows in a pasture outside my front door. Okay, the field was across a very narrow road...but still. You get my point, right?

I was the girl with the funny accent. Whenever I went on a job hunt, it was my New York pronunciation they noticed first.

It took a while but I did finally get a job. At McDonalds. Yeah. I was the grease and garbage girl.

Oh and the social quirks. In NY, I grew up in an Italian/Irish community. (Roman Catholics were everywhere.) We tended to hug when we greeted someone we hadn’t seen in a while and used our hands when we talked. This was so not the norm in rural FL. Up in NY guys and girls hung out as a group many times. As friends. No big deal. In that small town...I got labeled because I talked to guys. (Again, this might’ve had to do my NY accent. It got me into lots of trouble.) Whatever it was rumors spread like wildfire. Even some of my so called friends would make vicious jokes about me in front of boys at college.

I learned the difference between being alone and lonely.

There were many times I was accused of being a snob or rude because I didn't acknowledge someone. Most times it was because of my eye problem. (oddly, many people in NY didn't mind asking me about my eye disorder. Down in FL they didn't come out and ask. Perhaps they thought it was rude?) But I have to admit there were times I didn't acknowledge someone because I was too shy or leery.

There were some great times though. They were hilarious. Poignant. And sometimes they were sad. I met people from different walks of life that I would never have met in NY. I’ve learned sometimes you have to appreciate the folks around you now. They might not be your best friends but they might teach you something. I learned to appreciate a quieter life. And for the first time I was able to see the brilliant glow of the stars at night because there were no city lights to make them dimmer.

Here’s the part you’ll find really odd, Jean. To this day, when I talk about my years of living in FL, I describe them as the best and worst days of my life. I was born and raised in NY, but I had to grow up in all new ways down south. When I stumbled and made mistakes—they were huge. But when I think of home, that little town in Florida comes to mind before NY. It’s weird. But like you Jean, I will never be a real part of that town. I wasn’t born there. My family has almost all died out now. A few people there might remember me but…most likely they won’t.

I’ve been thinking, Jean, maybe home isn’t some place we can go back to all the time. Maybe it’s the place that forced us to grow. It’s the place that holds the most memories for us. The good and the bad.


  1. I grew up the stereotypical bookish gay kid in a hockey town. I hated the whole social interaction thing because I could never fit in (nor did I really try). It took me until my late 30s and reconnecting with people from grade school to realize that I wasn't as universally despised as I thought.

    It was a hard childhood and I'd never wish it on anyone but at the same time, it created who I am, so I can't regret any of it.

  2. Alex, I'm in touch with people from high school that I can't remember if I ever spoke to or if they ever spoke to me back then. I think as we've grown and matured, we appreciate some of the common background and are able to let some of the stereotypes drop.

    The hard childhood that made you who you are made me think of this article I read last night about a young man hoping to get a chance to play in the NBA (He asked the author to write the article so people wouldn't pity him -- he doesn't want pity, for the same reason you mention):

    Maripat, that's a good summary. I have a number of places I have been happy to live and call home for however long I was there. We have the two houses here in Texas, and I love them both (we anticipate selling one in a few years -- hopefully the market will strengthen again by then, but it's paid for, and we can afford the taxes, so we can wait).

    I'll give some thought to the idea of growth being home. That's an interesting theory.

  3. Alex, I'm glad you came through your childhood with so much strength. I was teased as a kid because of my eye problem. And yes, like you, it molded me into who I'd become today. I found quiet strength. After living in NY for 18 years, I found it unsettling some that no one commented on my eyes in the south. Not that it's a bad thing...just odd.

  4. Jean, when I lived in MD on Ft. Detrick, I became friends with several women there. They were a hilarious bunch. And for a short time there, it was one of my favorite places to live. Not that MD itselt was a great place. They burned test monkeys on Thursdays and it was gross. But the people on base were amazing.

    Maybe home isn't the same place forever. Maybe it changes as we grow. Like what you said to Alex about stereotypes no longer mattering to your high school classmates. I do think perception changes over time.

  5. I don't know where home is. My roots are deep in Montana soil, but I don't think I could ever go back. The person I am now doesn't fit there, but I don't fit here either. Though I think I'm happier here...

  6. Bonnie, I do understand that. I am not the same person that I was in NY or FL and truthfully, I don't know if I'd fit in either place. I soooo don't fit in here out in CO.