Friday, November 21, 2014

The Vermonter In Me

I love Rochester more with each passing year. Josh and I have shifted many of our plans and dreams for the future in order to stay in this city and remain part of this community for the long term. I don't know what the future holds, but I would be totally on board with raising my children here, and having them look back on Rochester as home.

But on beautiful October and November mornings, when the yellow and orange leaves from the park near my home are blowing past my kitchen window, I stop and think back to my Vermont roots. I can't honestly say how much my little home state has changed these past few years. But when autumn colors make me homesick for Vermont foliage (nothing compares with Vermont colors in the fall), I can't help reflecting on the Vermont I remember - on the pieces of Vermont I miss, the pieces I was glad to leave behind, and the pieces I hope to pass on to my children.

Try not getting homesick when this was the view from your front porch

I miss sitting by the lake in the early morning, reading or writing in my composition notebook. I miss sitting on the swing near the woods and just taking in the changing leaves, the summer green, or the spring sound of running water in the little brook. I miss fishing with my mom and eating the fresh venison my dad brought home during hunting season. I miss walking our little dirt road on a rainy day when the road mushed beneath my feet and there were little orange salamanders to be caught and loved and guided safely out of harm's way. I miss knowing who was in each car that passed and having neighbors stop to say hello as they drove by. I miss knowing everyone on my street. I miss being able to wander away on a grand exploration of the woods for a whole day as a child without ever worrying about coming across someone who could harm me.

The woods just down the dirt road from my childhood home

I miss jeans, t-shirts, hoodies and sneakers as acceptable everyday wear. I miss maple syrup and creamies and thinking cheddar was the only kind of cheese. I miss filling up the bathtub before a storm in case the power went out (really, I do), and the cozy feeling of a meal cooked by candlelight over the wood stove when the power did go out, sometimes for days. I miss family and friends who used to live minutes away and now live hours away. I miss being present for extended family gatherings where we could enjoy each other's company, laugh at each other's quirkiness, and gorge ourselves on our favorite family dishes. I miss the joy of going out for a drive just because, and feeling like an insider because I could navigate the dirt back roads and knew just where all of the potholes were.

Our own little dirt road leading to Echo Lake

And there are things I don't miss. I don't miss the distance between things. I don't miss being so far from a grocery store that we needed to bring a cooler in the summer, or extra sleeping bags and snow pants in case the car broke down in the winter. I don't miss watching the garage burn down and wondering if it's going to take out the house, too, because it's taking forever for any of the three closest fire stations to get a truck out to our remote home. Or worrying that, in an emergency, an ambulance would not arrive until too late. I don't miss the poor quality medical care we came across too frequently. I don't miss the lack of growing, young, vibrant churches. Or the difficulty of socially navigating those awkward childhood and preteen years with small class sizes, like a class of ten in fifth grade (actually, the ten included our entire combined class of fifth and sixth grades). I don't miss the lack of positive activities to engage in when it's too cold to even go sledding. I don't miss the lack of diversity. I don't miss frost heaves. (Okay, I do miss those a little. Once they hit a certain level of awfulness they become a little funny.)

Winter on the lake

My children aren't growing up as Vermonters, but I want them to feel like they still have a part in the state I grew up in. I want them to love flannel and plaid. I want them to feel comfortable in sneakers and hiking boots. I want them to reach for their rain boots and rain coat on a wet afternoon and leave their umbrella behind because they care more about feeling the raindrops than keeping their hair dry. I want to pass on the importance of a home clean enough to be comfortable and lived in enough to be welcoming. I want them to love digging in dirt and throwing sticks and rocks into the water. I want them to chase bugs. I want them to stare out the window in wonder and joy at the changing seasons and every kind of weather. I want sticks to be their favorite toys. I want them to love kayaking and being outdoors. I want them to be the kind of people who value those get-togethers where everyone chips in, and who aren't afraid of a "potluck" because it's about togetherness and not about offending people by asking them to bring something to dinner.

Beautiful Echo Lake

I love Rochester. I am amazed at how different the culture can be here at times, in the state next door to where I grew up. The differences are not bad. But I also value my Vermont background.

I'm not sure that I could ever move back to little Vermont. There are some difficulties that I'm just not ready to face again - especially the difficulty of finding a growing church with other young families. But not choosing to live there doesn't change the fact that part of me is always going to be a Vermonter and not a New Yorker. Part of me is always going to be more of an "outdoorsman" than a girly girl (although, no, I do not ever intend to hunt - sorry, dad!). Part of me will always be proud of myself just for being able to drive through the city, even though I panicked no fewer than three times on the way through it. Part of me will always reach for the jeans and hoodie longingly, even when I decide they're not appropriate that day. Part of me will never cease to be amazed that I can get to a great grocery store in under 5 minutes. Part of me will always have a sneaking suspicion that my day was wasted if none of it was spend outdoors. Part of me will always remember that deep down, I'm a Vermonter; and I'm okay with that.

Public service announcement: Part of this post was brought on by my finally switching over to a 585 number. It's been a good run, 802. I already miss you a little bit.

No comments: