Word Press asks us to use Google Maps to show you an important place in our lives and write about it. I’ve decided to show you where i grew up.
I was born in Utica, NY and moved to New Hartford, NY, a tiny suburb, when I was 18 months old to a house my father built for us with my grandfather’s help. My father taught building construction at the local high school and he was a master carpenter as was my grandfather. Building trade teachers from the local high school who were colleagues of my father helped with the plumbing, electrical, and masonry work. It was a labor of love and my parents lived there all their lives. It was a wonderful place to grow up, surrounded by an acre and a half of woods where we played and ice-skated and walked and collected pine cones and made little villages and rode our bikes in the logging trails next door.
I went to school at the parochial grammar school. St. John’s. in New Hartford. I still have my best friends from those school days though we now live thousands of miles apart. I had my first crush on a boy in fifth grade from that school, who convinced his father to drive through a snow storm on Valentine’s Day to bring me a box of candy. He passed away last year from heart disease, leaving a wife and 10 children, after years in the District Attorney’s office working with abused and neglected children. His rival is now one of my closest friends whom I email nearly ever day about all sorts of things. He’s the smartes person I know. My best girlfriend now lives in Buffalo, but we spend countless hours at each other’s houses, playing nun and talking about the Kennedys. We lost touch when we went to separate high schools, but found each other again several years ago. My oldest friend and very first crush from the fourth grade I still keep in contact with. We had lunch one day when I lived in Albany and he was in town to repair an organ, because that’s what he does. He was one of twelve children. His mother passed away this week. I also keep in touch with another girl from my class and her older sister who road my school bus. These people I am still connected to after all these years.
I went to high school in the city, at Utica Catholic Academy. There were two Catholic girls’ high schools and I wanted to go to the other school where most of my friends were going, but my parents insisted I go to UCA. They thought it was more prestigious and in a better neighborhood. The other was downtown, near my father’s school. I liked my school and made friends. I keep in touch with my best friend from school. Coincidentally, she too lives in Texas, as do I. We went to the same university until we had a falling out and she transferred to a school in Missouri to be with her sister. When I was in high school, every Wednesday, I took the bus downtown with my friends and we went to the museum or library or shops, then I took another bus to my grandparents’ home and had dinner with them and my uncle. I loved my Wednesday visits to their home. I would do my homework and we would talk about my life, then my uncle would take me home or my father would come to pick me up. I felt listened to and loved there. It was a welcome break from being at home where my mother seemed to be perpetually angry with me and critical of me, and where I had to compete with my extrovert brother and my underachieving sister for attention.
New Hartford was close to the Adirondacks so we often went to visit our relatives who lived in the Tug Hill Plateau region at the base of the mountains on family farms. We went to summer camp in the Adirondacks. We were also close to lakes and spent many hours at Sylvan Beach near Oneida, where there was an amusement park as well as a beach. We were not too far from Lake Ontario, one of the Great Lakes, which brought us a good deal of snowfall in the winter but not quite as much as Syracuse, 50 miles to the west. My father had a snowplow contraption that we affectionately called the doodlebug that he plowed our long driveway with as we watched from the windows of the kitchen and my parents’ bedroom.
I went away to university to Niagara Falls, NY and then went on to live in Albany, NY for 20 years. From there, I moved to San Antonio, TX where I currently reside. I still miss New Hartford, as parochial as it was. My sister lives in Utica, across the street from where I went to high school and my brother lives up the hill from where my parents lived. My nieces live in the area, too. Sometimes I think about moving back. I don’t know if I could take the snow and the cold again. But I miss my hometown.