This question always stumps me for some reason. That’s random, I know, but it does. It shouldn’t be cause for a lengthy explanation, but it often is.
My childhood was essentially split in half, with the first half – until I was 10 years old – spent in a large city, and the second half – 10 to 20 – spent in a tiny, rural town. Sometimes I explain that when people ask where I grew up, and sometimes I just give the short answer of the second half of my childhood. I don’t know why I do that. Both places, both halves of my childhood define me, made me who I am.
The first half of my childhood…..big city, next to a bunch of other big cities. All my earliest memories are there. Our family traditions began there. I had my first best friend, first sleepovers and slumber parties, first bike crash, first days of school. My godmother and babysitter lived fairly close. Her family became our family. Smells, sights, sounds….songs sung from the backseat of my godmother’s car, Sunday School and VBS with all her “kids”, getting our pool put in, the fish pond and fountain in our backyard, the dog dragging my brother down the street when he got out, Friday nights at the pizza place, my brother playing the Star Wars theme with his Junior High School band, Cosentino’s grocery store with their amazing fresh bread and the gingerbread man cookies we used to get in the bakery, the special shoes I had to wear to keep me from turning my foot in, the bee hive that set up house in the wall of my bedroom, the time we all had the flu and stayed home from school, the bunk beds my sister and I had, the pink and blue carpet in our shared bedroom, Christmas Eves and Christmas mornings, my oldest brother living with us in the added-on room, the day we got our van, my brother’s Little League games, Campfire Girls meetings after school, playing at the park just outside of our neighborhood….
I remember when our parents told us we were moving. I was SO sad. I didn’t want to leave our house, didn’t want to leave my school. My friends started pulling away before we even packed up the house. The move was a defining break in my childhood – split it right in half. We spent that summer traveling around my mom’s home state. Then we were in a rental house for a couple of months until our new house was ready.
Our new town was teeny-tiny, 15,000 people. There was one high school. My brother didn’t take the move well. He ran away, back to the Big City, and my godmother’s house. My parents let him spend the weekend there to calm down, then we went and picked him up. I remember picking out my new bedding with matching curtains. I remember my mom putting my new canopy bed together – I was so proud of that thing. I remember my dad and brother building the fences with our new neighbors. There was a corn field just beyond the houses at the end of our street, which meant there were always spiders and mice in the garage, house, backyard. When I think about the question, “Where did you grow up?” this town, this house, is what comes to mind, for it is there that I did my growing up, even though the first half of my childhood did help shape me. The second half…that’s middle school and my second (and best) best friend. It’s high school, learning to drive, church camp, first crushes, first dates, first kisses, first boyfriends, first drama, first bullies. It’s football games and dances on Friday nights. It’s learning who I was, who I wanted to be. It’s singing along with Chicago in my bestie’s bedroom while doing math homework. It’s bike rides to the library. It’s ice fights with my brother and sister while Mom was at work. It’s orchestra, swimming, acrobats, gymnastics, chamber ensemble, and cheerleading. It’s 3-mile walks home on sunny afternoons. It’s 4th of July fireworks at the high school football field. It’s my first car. It’s my first heartbreak. It’s cruising the four main streets of town, looking for friends to hang out with. It’s green and gold, being a Bulldog, graduation, leaving for college.
Where am I from? I’m from a big city, and I’m from a small town. I’m from urban and rural. Both made me who I am. Both are part of me. Both hold my childhood memories.
How do you answer that question?