I am back in New York visiting my parents who live in a town known to be one of the stops on the Erie Canal. For anyone who is outside of this large state, when you say you are going to New York, it is automatically assumed you are going to be near New York City. That is a wrong assumption. New York City is more than 400 miles away! I grew up on the west side of Rochester, several suburbs away from this mid-sized city, once considered white-collar, that sits on the shore of Lake Ontario. It takes highway travel and about 45 minutes to get to downtown Rochester. As a child, we only went downtown on certain occasions. One was to go to ball games at the Rochester Red Wing’s home, Silver Stadium. I’m not sure what it’s called now, but the years my sister and I were part of the Knot Hole Gang that was its name. The other time we would venture downtown was to go to a show or museum. Rochester has a planetarium and abounds with some interesting museums. We also attended Lilac Days in Highland Park and went to the Seneca Park Zoo regularly with my Grandma and Great Aunt.
I selected a college in the southern tier of New York State to go to nursing school and this took me into a different part of New York called the Southern Tier. The Southern Tier was beautiful with rolling hills, farms, and family owned homesteads. There cheese was produced, wine was created from acres of grape, and it had a rural feel. It was not uncommon for us to find a cow that had wandered onto campus. The campus at Alfred University was one of the first co-ed colleges in the country back in 1836 when it was founded. It is a bittersweet memory I have of my time at Alfred, as shortly after I graduated, the School of Nursing closed. I would compare my nursing education from Alfred to any one’s from ANY college.
Then, came a stint in Buffalo, New York. Again, this city sits on another Great Lake. But, this time it’s Lake Erie. Here my husband and I lived in the city proper, where we both walked to reach our work at local hospitals. It was fun living near work, and stores, and the hustle of others living similarly. It also exposed me to a different city in the state of New York, one that I came to love for different reasons than I loved the area in which I grew up or attended college. Essentially, I became an adult in Buffalo. I learned to love old houses, varied architecture (which abounds in this city), and a variety of ethnic cuisine such as Greek, Italian, Polish, and German. We visited museums, and the zoo, and made frequent trips to Niagara Falls, a mere thirty minutes away. In addition, the gardens in the city of Buffalo are beautiful.
After living in Delaware and Maryland for several years, my husband and I returned to the Buffalo area, buying our first home, a Federal period house from 1912 and completely restored it, doing all the work ourselves. This house was situated in what would be called an inner ring suburb, not far from the university campus and other suburbs further out. There was a lot of traffic but also a lot of choice of where to go, what to buy, and how to go about making a home. It was here we eventually started our family.
This week, I am reliving some of my past in Western New York. We drove past both of the houses I grew up in, and the corner store I recently wrote about in this blog. It all looks so different to me! The huge yards I remember, look small. There are a lot of new homes, too. The field behind the house I lived in until I was 12, where we would build forts and run free, is filled with houses. It’s somewhat strange; a de javu that doesn’t quite ring true. The experience is teaching me that one’s perception of things change as we age. It is both sad and sobering.
What have you felt when you returned home?
Whenever I get the chance to drive through my hometown it is such a strange feeling. The place I spent so little time in comparison to my whole life had such an impact on my memories. It’s hard to imagine sometimes that the way my home looked when I was a kid is something so different now and is the hometown of other kids growing up now. Perspective is so interesting like you said.
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Thanks for your comments, Betsy! I apologize for the late reply. June has been a crazy one for me! It is all about perspective – now that I am home again, my perspective has shifted again – I do have some hometown pride left!
When I drive through the areas in which I grew up, I, too, always feel a bit sad. In some cases, there has been lots of change and some things are unrecognizable. In other cases, there has been little change and the area seems to be falling a part. It is easy to see the economic movement in those areas.
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Tracy, Thanks for your thoughtful comments and reply. The area we grew up in has changed so much – just from over development! I barely recognized the house I grew up in until I was 12 – because it was surrounded by other houses – none of which existed at the time! Crazy!