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Sunday, September 4, 2011

Do our Hometowns Define Us?


Once again over this holiday weekend I am visiting my hometown of Tunkhannock Pennsylvania.  And again I am brought back to the memories of being a 12 year old kid who went to the local sporting goods store and put half my allowance of 50 cents down on a lay away fishing pole.  Today I went into that store looking for some hardware but had to wander around the store just for the memories.  This is where I bought my first baseball glove that contributed to baseball being a significant part of my childhood.  Many memories were created at the local Little League baseball park that the town took pride in and was the site of the annual Memorial Day Little League baseball game between the two local Little League teams.  Yankees and Red Sox, Redskins and Cowboy rivalries have nothing on the competition between these two Little League teams. You were proudly a member of either the Turrell's or Gay Murry's teams.  Boyhood friendships meant nothing when you faced your best friend as a member of the other team. I will never forget striking out my best friend after he just missed hitting a homerun off me that just went foul. For years we relived that moment as each of us stressed a different component.  He would start by talking about how he just missed homer off me and I would finish the story by asking him what happened next.

Somehow a small town seemed so limiting as I grew up.  Minorities were unknown.  Big cities were seen as evil places of corruption controlled by big city Democrat mayors.  Our local paper was called the Tunkhannock Republican. James Carville, Bill Clinton's campaign staffer, called Pennsylvania, Philadelphia and Pittsburg with Mississippi in between.  Maybe not quite true but it does have an element of truth.  Schools did close the first day of deer hunting season as a school holiday. Few kids moved away but settled into the local job market often working where there parents had worked.

So it was somewhat of a surprised when I told my parents that I would move to that big city of Washington DC to go to college and I wasn't coming back.  Reading had given me a wider view of the world and I wanted to experience it rather than just reading about it.  Moving to DC in the early 1970's was like moving to a different planet.  Minorities, drugs, anti war protests and yes the first experience with rush hour traffic jams. Returning home with a beard and long hair was quite a shock for my parents. It is not a surprise that my parents bought me an electric razor for my first Christmas back.  My goodness, their first born had turned into a "hippie."  An even worse I was talking like a Democrat!  Evil forces had possessed me. My favorate phrase was "Question Authority."

All that seems like a distant memory as I find my parents entering the last phase of their lives and I find other people referring to me as an "older person."  That alone has had me thinking of growing a beard again even if it would be gray this time.  I understand guys my age wearing a ponytail.  It is not easy to have an anti establishment mentality when others look at you as "the establishment."

Time has mellowed my feeling for my hometown and I now can look at it as a place that did define a lot of what I am and not as a place I rejected.  And every return visit for me is a chance to go back to the 1950's and remember the days of Leave it to Beaver and Ozzie and Harriet. And somehow I really do like reliving that time. The rebel is still a part of me but with a higher tolerance for those who chose a different path.

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