Country road, take me home
Although my coming home was short-lived, I feel so fortunate. The pandemic grounded me and extended me back to my roots. The things that I once ran from, I now crave when I am at a distance.
Disorganized thoughts from a small-town twenty-something
When I was asked to write an article about my life as a Townshipper, it immediately felt problematic. Yes, I grew up here, but I couldn’t quite say how it felt to be at home here. So, I began regarding myself as an ungrateful Townshipper. Here I am, a kid from a town where people only dream of visiting on holidays, and skipping out on most opportunities to return. Why? When I spoke to many of my old friends who are now dispersed around the world, I concluded that this feeling of being an ungrateful Townshipper may relate more to the local experience than I had imagined.
Eventually, something always draws people back to their hometown. Fresh out of senior year, small-town kids pack up to leave home and experience the real world. High school graduates’ excitement to leave home runs deep – through veins – challenging childhood comfort-zones. What, then, are so many small-town kids eager to leave behind? Of course, cities offer great pleasures of travelling. Standing alone amidst a sea of bodies, finding silence in noise, and running through nameless streets into the night has become a right of passage into modern adulthood. If forests are home to raw nature, untouched, then cities are home to raw twenty-somethings, untouchable.
But it isn’t only cities that draw youth out of their hometowns. It is culture, freedom and let us not forget, expeeeerience. These abstract concepts that we SWEAR are the ticket to a full life are the same as those that drove the 1960s’ bohemians in their Westfalias to follow the Beatles with nothing but their bare feet, a couple of joints, and their voices singing, ’One thing I can tell you is you got to be free ; come together, right now, over me.’ So that’s it, we abandon our hometowns for existential searches? Typically to find overcrowded venues, no cash, and deep convos with unfamiliar faces? Perhaps.
But then the pandemic hit, challenging the essence of these coming-of-age adventures. As flights, bars, and university campuses closed, twenty-somethings everywhere were suddenly lost. Because of this, my appreciation for the Eastern Townships grew. Indeed, it seems that a mass urban exodus impacted off-duty parents as heavily as rural real estate, forcing old moms and dads to clear chalets and dusty bedrooms for their over-grown university kids.
Although my coming home was short-lived, I feel so fortunate. The pandemic grounded me and extended me back to my roots. The things that I once ran from, I now crave when I am at a distance; like driving the backroads from Sutton to Frelighsburg with closed eyes, knowing the hands that baked the bread at our local bakeries, living in towns that are utterly wrapped in trees, mountains, and rivers, and smiling at familiar faces inside our grocers. These are some of the things that make small-town kids the lucky ones. These are some of the things that pull us back.