Having lived in Scandinavia for nearly a year now, it was interesting to visit my parents in the town where I was raised. I saw everything with fresh eyes! I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching lately, a lot in part to many people asking if I’ll ever move back, and my gut reaction being “no!” despite having lovely memories from there.
The town is small, and a peninsula (surrounded by water on three sides). It’s a very wealthy town, and is home to many Manhattan commuters who settle there to raise their children. In the community you almost have to belong to clubs to be a part of a social community: one of the many beach, tennis, and/or country clubs. Growing up my sister and I were very active competitive horseback riders so our stable was mostly our club, although my parents also joined the country club in town later in my childhood. There is no “hometown” feeling, but it is beautiful and perfect. When the families there aren’t in town, they are usually in Manhattan, Vermont, the Hamptons, Europe, or, especially during the winter, at their homes in Florida, the Bahamas, or the Caribbean.
Almost every single one of my friends, and their parents, have since moved out of the town. It is very normal. During high school, like many others from town, I went to a private school and then to boarding school. I went to university in Manhattan, and afterwards the majority of my friends from both childhood and young adulthood moved to the West Coast or Europe. After spending three years on the West Coast myself, where my sister and her family now live, I moved to Europe.
It was strange being back this weekend. It was both 9/11 as well as a turbulent time for my own family’s vacation home in the Florida Keys during hurricane Irma, which we now know will never be the same. The town I grew up in, being 12 miles by ferry to Manhattan, was very disturbed by the events of 9/11, and I remember the day vividly. I was 11 years old. I remember the parents (my mom included) rushing into school to pick us up, the ash floating in the air, fighter jets circling in the sky, images of people jumping out of buildings on the tv, my friends’ parents not coming home that night, our “safe room,” and the weeks, months, and years that followed. Initially it brought our community together, but ultimately, perhaps, it tore it apart.
My hometown is a place where I go to visit my parents, to visit beautiful architecture of a town founded by New York businessmen in the early 1900s who built grand weekend and summer estates, which are now sectioned into individual homes. In the spring the grass is green and the flowers bloom, in the summer the sun beams off the beach and the ocean waves sooth your soul, in the fall the leaves turn brown and the smell of apple pies is rich, in the winter the snow blocks the streets and red robins dance on snowmen. I spent every extra minute with my parents, usually going for drives in the countryside or eating at some of our favorite local spots.
It is a beautiful place to visit, and just to name a few of my favorite things: the cookies and donuts from Delicious Orchards, the flavored coffee from Sickles, the beach and ambiance of Sea Bright Beach Club, the relaxing sophistication of the Rumson Country Club, the memories from my years at Knightsbridge Farm, breakfasts at: Sissy’s, Edie’s, and Amy’s, coffee and bagels from Rook and Bagel Station, dinners at Juanito’s, Salt Creek Grille, Umberto’s, and Val’s. I love to wake up early and go for hike’s at Huber Woods, rides at Lancaster Equestrian, and walks on the boardwalks or beaches; also run in the hundreds of 5k running races this community has to offer.
So when people ask will I ever move home, my home is wherever my heart takes me. My parents have taken me all over the world and shown me what’s out there, they gave me a safe and comfortable place to go to school as a child, but I do not feel as though I have what Hollywood has told people an American hometown is – to be honest, I don’t have a single friend left living in this town, or state! I have something much stronger and much more powerful, I have the freedom to make my life my own. If someday my freedom takes me to a place where I want to raise my future children back here, there are worse things in the world. But, no, I do not have a hometown with memories of a nice old lady down the street who helped me with my homework, or my uncles in the next town over, or grandparents who made dinner every Sunday night, or the same old friends who I’ve known forever who are now raising their kids there.
My parents are the coolest and most amazing people, and I am so grateful for what they’ve given me and my sister.