“Your name tag has to say where you’re from. What do you want me to put?” My boss smiled politely as he waited for my answer.
“Can you put Costa Rica?” I asked, and he laughed before saying, “Sure.”
I wasn’t from Costa Rica. I had just spent a year living there, but I was in reality a fair, blue-eyed, white girl who had grown up a couple of towns away from the ski resort where I now worked. It’s just that I was humiliated that I was local. I hated my hometown with such vehemence that I refused to wear its name on me like a badge of shame. For years I felt convinced that if I fostered my hatred of the place enough, that would somehow make it as though I wasn’t really from there at all.
The county where I grew up was isolated, cold, and sparsely populated with people I simply did not get. I didn’t fit my hometown, it didn’t fit me, and I was more than happy to leave it behind for bigger and better things after high school. Once I turned eighteen, I moved to warmer climates, traveled to exotic cities, and filled my life with all the things it had been missing while I was growing up. But when I unexpectedly wound up back in my hometown for an extended stay a couple of years ago, I never in my wildest dreams imagined what would happen, that I would actually learn to… appreciate it.
At first, I tried to keep a low profile so as not to run into anyone I knew. I was only there temporarily, while my home renovation troubles got sorted out, and I was determined to fly under the radar until I could leave. But eventually the inevitable happened and I began seeing people from my past — the boisterous woman from church who was always doing work for the Pregnancy Resource Center, an old classmate who’d had a crush on me and I pretended not to recognize, my ex-boyfriend’s mom at the doctor’s office while I was getting my IUD.
It wasn’t just old acquaintances either, there were new people, too. Other moms at the library began introducing themselves and before I knew it, we were getting together for playdates. Soon I was feeling oddly… at home. While I had some friends back in New York, and some lovely neighbors, I would never have used the word “community” to describe what life in the New York City suburbs was like. But here, in the little town I loathed, there was undeniable community.