Saturday, May 7, 2005

Hometown Proud

Taken on the surface, small towns are wonderful places.

All is lush green here in Lebanon in May. Lush green spotted with the maroon and white uniforms smudged brown with dirt after a long day of softball. These little maroon and white troops stand in disarray outside the Dairy Queen, flanked by their moms wearing matching two-toned baseball shirts and their dads sporting half-shaven greasy faces that still reek of beer and sweat.

I wonder how I spent 16 years of my life in this one place, doing exactly what these people are doing.

Wearing my maroon and white tennis sweats, standing in line at Dairy Queen, a boyfriend at my side and the keys to my Beetle swinging off my finger.Running about town with John Mayer, Third Eye Blind or Eagle Eye Cherry blasting in the CD player, the sun blinding against the glass-washed windows of the bank and Trish down at the shop on Broadway inquiring after my parents. Swinging on the swingsets down at Harmon Park and going on walks on the golf course late at night.

Did I really do this for 16 years?

The other thing about being home is that there are so few people your age there. You suddenly realize you were unaware of the absence of the 18-23 year-olds in town during the schoolyear. But now that you're back, you notice that they're not around.

The only people around are aged up to 17 or are parents... and that's when it hit me.

Everything is maroon and white here in Lebanon. Everything moves together quietly, even if under the surface there is turbulence, toward some common goal of a town with a purpose. When everyone knows who you are, it's hard not to be part of this community.

Yet, here I am, twenty years old and on my own, essentially. I've been given this opportunity to throw off school colors and punch my fists in the air while breaking free. I don't have to identify with anyone but myself right now, and that's pretty awesome.Somewhere down the line, I might end up in another Lebanon, U.S.A. and I'll port my own child's school colors and stand in line with him at the Dairy Queen. Who knows? But for now, I'm throwing punches at the world and refusing to get tied down in a city where I remain nameless and a campus where, I assume, I remain mostly a mystery.

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