Oh hometowns. I have always joked that my hometown is Air Force Base, USA because we moved so often growing up. However, we rarely moved somewhere brand new and often made circles in the assignments my daddy had throughout his career. To honor each of the places I lived in, I thought I would write about what I loved best about each.
Minot, North Dakota: I was born in Minot on a 60 below 0 day in the middle of a blizzard. Welcome to Minot! I also spent seventh and eight grade in this town. I really enjoyed my time in middle school in Minot – I went to two schools. In seventh grade I attended the combined junior high and high school Catholic school in town and played basketball. I also did theater. In eighth grade I transferred to the on-base middle school because of how crazy commuting was on and off base the year prior due to the events of September 11. In eighth grade I continued to do community theater and school plays, I played volleyball and basketball, ran distance track and was on the swim team. I babysat often and had some of the best friends to hang out around base with. Minot was a very safe community to live in and we made some life-long family friends here during both our assignments. Some friends who still reside in Minot and others who have ended up across the country – though most of our Air Force friends retired in either Colorado Springs or Washington D.C. Some of my favorite memories from North Dakota are summer weekends at the lake, catching my first fish, an 8th grade camping field trip to Medora, visiting Fort Mandan and walking in the steps of Lewis & Clark. Truly, North Dakota is a hidden gem and I am grateful to have lived there and learned to really enjoy watching hockey!
Lakeridge, Virginia: We lived in Lakeridge twice too – when I was in preschool and grades 4-6. My sister was born at Fort Belvoir and its where I discovered my love of theater because Pied Piper Theater was so encouraging and so much fun. Virginia is where I fell in love with history and government and where I went on the most amazing field trips – we did science experiments on a boat ride up and down the Potomac, visited Jamestown, Williamsburg, Yorktown, Monticello, Mount Vernon, the monuments and museums in Washington and Arlington National Cemetery. We took a bus up to Philadelphia and toured the Capitol. So much of what interests me I can trace back to discovering when we lived in Virginia. We loved going to Potomac Cannons games and being a part of the Barracudas swim team where my sister learned her gift for swimming and I learned that I would rather have a perfect stroke than a speedy one. Virginia is where I made really good friends and have memories of the best summers. It’s where we were closest to our family in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Michigan and South Carolina. Its where most of my classes were filled with first and second generation Americans and where I learned the beauty in diversity. It’s where I learned about cancer and the pain it causes to the family and friends of the person who was diagnosed. Virginia is a deep part of soul and somewhere I reflect on with very fond memories. It’s also where we adopted our sweet westie, Madeline Virginia.
Colorado Springs, Colorado: We lived here three times and it’s where my family chose to put down roots. I spent grade K-2 and sophomore year of high school here. My brother was born here. I moved into my parents house after graduating college and entered the working world here. I made some sweet treasured friendships here as an adult and really learned about my faith and personal belief system living here. I was able to work in a district congressional office and the same office on Capitol Hill. This is where we were living when I first experienced death when my Pappy died in second grade. Colorado is where I learned to love the outdoors and hiking. It’s where I learned to ski and snow-shoe. I adore Colorado and while I don’t know that it’s a state I would want to live in permanently, it is a great place to visit and somewhere I grew up in many different ways.
Prattville, Alabama: I have such a rose-colored perspective of our time in the sweet Alabama town. I lived here in 3rd grade and freshman year of high school. The first day we moved there in 3rd grade we were asked “who do you go for?” and that simple question turned me into a lifelong Alabama fan. I had the sweetest teachers during both our assignments here and made one of my very best friends as freshman there. I met my husband – though neither of us had any idea at the time! In third grade this is where I learned to roller blade and loved walking to the library, getting snow cones and visiting the park by our house. Its where as a freshman I had my first boyfriend, was very involved in church and marching band, where I fell in love with the French language and culture and the place that spoiled me on high school football and expectations of what Friday nights would entail. This is also my husband’s hometown and where his family still lives. I love the sweet memories I have of this community and the memories that are to come from our visits back in the future.
Great Falls, Montana: We moved to this central Montana city for my junior and senior year of high school. This is where I fell in love with writing and editing and worked for our student newspaper and yearbook staff. It’s where I participated in Girl’s State and Youth Legislature. It’s where I made friends most quickly and went on a mission trip to a Northern Cheyenne reservation. It’s where I went on band tour to Calgary and Edmonton in Canada. It’s where I was a member of state orchestra and where my private instructor for oboe passed away in a plane crash. Great Falls is where I fell in love with coffee, had my first job at Dairy Queen and learned the freedom associated with having your driver’s license. Living in Great Falls we spent a lot of free time by the river – we would go on picnics or jump off of rope swings are our friends houses. It’s where I first read A River Runs Through It and understood my deep love of the river and this quote from Norman McLean, “Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.”
Missoula, Montana:The first town I chose to live in on my own. Missoula is where I have lived the longest consecutive amount of time. It’s where I learned to be strong and to stand on my own and also had fun with my friends, sorority sisters and boys. It’s where I learned to stand up for myself when being bullied and that quitting something is okay. It’s where I learned whiskey is not my friend and that Doritos belong on a bagel with cream cheese at 3 in the morning. It’s where I learned what real friendship looks like and how fun it is to play pranks and let loose. It’s where I changed majors seven times and where I learned about my vast interests. It’s where I worked for MontPIRG on environmental protection issues and coached Special Olympics. It’s where I learned consequences of sleeping in and time management. Missoula is where I learned to be an adult and that I am more liberal than I used to want to admit. Missoula is in my soul in all the best ways and a place I love going back to because so many of my friends have made our college town their adult town. It’s where I learned to appreciate Norman McLean saying, “The world is full of bastards, the number increasing rapidly the further one gets from Missoula, Montana.” and being able to relate to that statement some days. I adore Missoula and who I became because of that sweet western Montana city.
Pocatello, Idaho: This is where my husband and I got married, where we bought our first home and adopted our dog. Its where we became a family. I love being able to get outside and go hiking. I love being so close to Jackson, Wyoming and Yellowstone National Park. I love Wednesday nights in the summer and Revive at Five and the sweet little Farmer’s Market on summer Saturdays.
Even though I never lived in this next place, it was the one constant in all of our moving because my grandparents still live in the houses my parents grew up in a street away from each other.
Aliquippa, Pennsylvania: This is where my parents grew up. It’s where my grandparents still are. My grandmothers living in the houses that are so familiar and my grandfathers buried not too far down the road. My dad’s sister still lives there as do extended family members. I have fond memories of summer visits and catching fireflies in glass jars, buying snow cones from my parent’s retired teacher, watching fireworks from the backyard. I remember Thanksgivings when my whole maternal side would gather at my Grammy’s house. I remember finding the Easter Bunny’s footprints when we were little and always feeling so very loved every time we would get to visit. I loved going into Pittsburgh and exploring the city – especially when we went ice skating at the outdoor rink downtown by the Macy’s that is now closed. I love the comfort food I associate with Pittsburgh – pierogies, pitzelles, stuffed cabbage, saurkraut and of course my own grandmother’s amazing cooking. There is nothing quite as satisfying as when your grandmother cooks you dinner. Even though Aliquippa is not MY hometown, it’s where my family is from and I love it!