A Phoenix Burning

My Hometown

I live in an old mill town, population around 7,000,  in Upstate New York.  Our town’s first settler arrived in 1762, and our second arrived a year later and built the first lumber mill here on the Hudson River.  There has been mill activity here on the falls ever since.

Our location on the river, with access to railroad lines and the Champlain Canal system made this an active town until recent years.  Most of the mills have now gone, and we have become a town worn out and worn down.  You know the type-two Rite Aids on the same road a mile from each other…two Family Dollar stores, again on the same road, a mile from each other…old dive bars, too many liquor stores, and a very busy Soup Kitchen.

But despite the depressed economy, we are not a depressed people and there are things to be proud of.  We have six active churches of different denominations all in the heart of the town.  Our schools are beautiful and modern, well staffed and well loved, with the best computer technology in the area.  Our town circle is a source of pride and a gathering place for all.  Our school enrollment, after years of dropping, is on the rebound.  Young families are moving in or moving back, choosing here to make a life.  Old homes are being bought and fixed and converted back to single homes from apartment buildings.  There is a strong sense of community—we know our shortcomings, but we have pride in who we are and where we come from.

I grew up here, as did my Mother.  I spent my teaching career working in my old elementary school.  The first classroom I taught in was my first grade classroom as a six year old.  My first boss, my principal, had been my sixth grade teacher.  My children now sit in these classrooms.  Living in my hometown is a treasure.  A lifetime of memories are everywhere I look.   Even more priceless is the fact that my parents live 4 minutes in one direction and my sister, 2 minutes in the other.  Zan’s brother lives just down the hill, and passes by at least twice a day with a “beepbeep!”  I can’t tell you how cool it is to have Mister run to the window every time he hears his car horn, yelling, “HI UNCLE TOPH!!!!”  through the glass.

That is the true meaning of home to me…not the place, but the people.  They are why we stay.

So, here it is…my hometown.  I share with you, not necessarily the prominent buildings, or the historical monuments, but the places that make this MY hometown….

Here is the apartment building where I grew up until the age of 12…we lived right around the corner from my grandparents.  We saw them everyday.  We were so close that we could see their porch from our porch.  Mom would flash the porch light when we arrived home so my grandfather knew we had made it home safely.  The place never had a claim to beauty in my lifetime, but some of my best memories come from this little apartment.  Just a month ago, they removed a berry tree that had made my feet purple all summer long. (If you look very carefully along the left edge of the frame, you’ll see the stump.)  I remember my Mom taking watered down bleach to my feet nightly, trying (and failing) to get the stains off the soles.

And the alleyway where I learned to ride a bike…I swear all those potholes were there 30 years ago.

This stone wall is on Main Street, and I remember the balance challenge it presented whenever I walked down to the local market to get milk.

And this is the first house I ever loved.  When I was a little girl, I wished I could live there.  I have more to tell about this house, but it will have to wait for a later post.

This is the home my parents built when I was 12…I spent the rest of my childhood here.  It was in the same town, but a completely different neighborhood.  It was new, big, and beautiful, but I never forgot where I came from.  I’ve always been “that girl from the poor end of town” in my heart.

They built here because of this view:

See those mountains way over there?  That’s where Zan grew up.  And see that tree in the middle and those lovely cars and campers down there????  They were not there when my parents built the house, and they wouldn’t be now if my Dad had anything to say about it.  🙂

And this is the street where I spent all my summers, hanging out with my cousins playing street ball.  Their house was the gathering place, and all the neighborhood kids would come.  I still remember yelling, “CAR! car! CaR! caR!” and we’d all move to the sides and wave to the passersby.  Most drivers would wave, some would scold, but we were never disrespectful, unlike the kids today.

And here is my Church.  I grew up attending this Church…I was married here, my babies were Christened here, and it is here that I can find peace when everywhere else it is elusive.

A tour of my hometown isn’t complete without referring to my Dear Neighbors who help make this place un-leavable.

And finally, these steps lead to the house I call home…in my hometown, surrounded by the people I love.

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25 responses

  1. Sniff…well done, KD. Nice word…un-leavable.

    March 24, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    • Thanks Scott…and thanks for another great challenge. 🙂

      March 24, 2010 at 8:08 pm

  2. BEAUTIFUL post, KD!

    March 24, 2010 at 1:29 pm

  3. karma

    Very nicely writtten. I hesitated about naming my hometown in my contribution too, but in the end did it anyway. Nice presentation and perspective.

    March 24, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    • Yeah, I’m still weird like that. 🙂
      Zan couldn’t believe that I’ve posted pics of the kiddos recently. He wondered if I had a fever. lol

      March 24, 2010 at 8:10 pm

  4. Hi KD, thanks for taking us a tour through your hometown. When I read your post I wish I’d put many more places in mine.
    Maybe an other day.
    You mention that part of your heart is still where you came from. I have the same feeling. As I have for the people from those days.
    I’ll always have room for them in my heart.

    March 24, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    • Carsten, I still want to go back and add more! 🙂 Like you, maybe another day.

      When I was teaching, it was always interesting when my students found out which side of town I was from. I got “street cred” from some of the toughest kids when they found out I was one of them. 🙂

      March 24, 2010 at 8:13 pm

  5. This was a lovely post indeed! Every little story came alive, I enjoyed reading your childhood memories. (How fun it was to make balance challenges back then,- I´m not sure about today). The house made by you parents looks like a wonderful home.

    March 24, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    • Walks down Memory Lane are lovely, yet painful. Boy, do I miss my Pepiere tonight.

      And yes, my parents home IS wonderful! 🙂 It was a beautiful place to spend my teen years, and my children love visiting there…especially since they added the finished basement complete with Jukebox, pool table, and dart board. 🙂

      March 24, 2010 at 8:16 pm

  6. Everyone is calling you KD…how fun! (That’s my initials, too!) I love reading your post and seeing your hometown. The steps, the doors, the stories…all of them really gave me a feel of the place you call home. And the neighbors and relatives and history which enrich the places which you photographed. Nice to meet you too!

    March 24, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    • Welcome Kathy! 🙂

      KanniDuba=KD

      There’s so much more to tell! I had to be careful….once I got started, it was difficult to stop!

      March 24, 2010 at 8:18 pm

  7. Your pictures and words really made me feel the atmosphere of your hometown. Great – thank you!

    March 24, 2010 at 7:09 pm

    • Thank you Truels, and welcome to my little corner of the cyberverse. 🙂

      March 24, 2010 at 8:19 pm

  8. Nye

    Such precious memories, something that I don’t have since we moved around so much. This is a beautiful post, and thanks for sharing. 🙂

    March 24, 2010 at 11:48 pm

  9. KD, this is a most touching and wonderful post ! I simply loved reading it, looking at your pictures and imagine you years ago as you walked or played in this environment. The pictures are lovely too, those steps, the rail to the mill, this old curved wall, the b&w light in the dark and those blue mountains in the far, very well done, thanks a lot !

    March 25, 2010 at 8:38 am

  10. Sue Knapp

    What a wonderful interpretation of your photography assignment!
    You are so gifted with both your words and your camera!
    I am honored to know you!

    March 25, 2010 at 11:03 am

    • Big Smooches to you Dear Neighbor! 🙂 The honor is all mine…thanks for making this place “un-leavable.” XO

      March 25, 2010 at 1:17 pm

  11. Beautiful! I love the personal touches in your narrative – I can just imagine little KD traversing that wall. 🙂

    March 25, 2010 at 6:56 pm

  12. KD, this is a wonderful essay. I hope you’ll save it on paper as well as online. One day it will mean more to your children and grandchildren than you can imagine now–and who knows where the pixels will have gone by then?

    You’ve drawn the picture so tenderly–a life well-lived in a place well-loved. You’re rich, you know. Rich.

    March 26, 2010 at 11:40 am

    • Yes, Gerry, I am rich—and feel blessed to know it. 🙂
      Hmmm…have thought about having the blog printed in Blurb for posterity. Maybe I should consider it more seriously. Thank you.

      March 26, 2010 at 7:42 pm

  13. Thanks so much everyone!

    March 26, 2010 at 7:42 pm

  14. Pingback: Assignment 6: Recap « Views Infinitum

  15. Beautiful post! I do think it would be great if you published this and you could even add more photos. I haven’t lived in my hometown since college, but my parents are still on the same property where I grew up and it’s great to take the kids to “the farm” now that I live in the big city.

    March 31, 2010 at 12:50 pm

  16. Camilla

    Hi. This post was really beautiful. I love that you tell all about why you took the pictures and what you feel about it. It’s so nice! Thanks for sharing!

    April 1, 2010 at 11:47 am

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