Madison Thibodeau ’21, Editor in Chief

Source: The Boston Globe

When I tell new friends that I am from New Hampshire, they cannot really imagine what that means. Especially if they have never been there. Often, they will allude to farmland. Pastures are definitely part of my childhood and adolescent landscape, but I did not grow up on a farm. I did not help raise any animals, and for me, my childhood was less oriented around nature and more around seeking entertainment. For those of you who grew up in cities or who grew up in small towns in other areas of the country, here is what growing up in Farmington, New Hampshire was like.

On a phone call with my uncle when I was in high school, I listened as he raved about how beautiful New Hampshire was. After my parents moved us to Pennsylvania when I was fifteen or sixteen, I had less appreciation for New Hampshire. I did not find the box-buildings, the series of pharmacies, and grocery stores on every corner, as well as the lack of ornamented buildings particularly beautiful. When my uncle asked what I did not like about New Hampshire, I quipped, “Too many trees.” One of my least favorite things about living in New Hampshire was describing how I hated living in New Hampshire for a friend or acquaintance or stranger or family member to say, “But New Hampshire is so beautiful.” One of my favorite stories to exemplify the shortage of things to do in New Hampshire is when I was at Barnes & Noble and opened a book called Things to Do in New Hampshire. One of the things the book suggested: Go to Boston. For the geographically challenged, Boston is in Massachusetts which is not New Hampshire. New Hampshire equals boring. I rest my case.

Besides the mall, one of the main hubs of entertainment for me in middle school was the movie theater. Every year, I saw over thirty movies. While I like movies, I definitely would have avoided such films as Twilight, Letters to Juliet, and Hot Tub Time Machine, but there were only so many places I could hang out with my boyfriend. You are welcome for all the ticket sales, Regal Fox Run Stadium 15. Because I was less inclined to do outdoorsy things, finding entertainment in New Hampshire sometimes meant being creative or repetitive, but there are only so many bad movies you can see in theaters. Because of that, especially at night, I would wind up parked in cars at a gas station.

While Farmington, New Hampshire certainly is not the smallest of towns, it definitely was not the same as growing up in NYC, LA, or someplace where people do not totally regret life. And I am sure my experience of New Hampshire varies from others who have lived and better appreciated the state while living there. I have been out of the state for six years now, and while I do not envision myself living there again any time soon, absence has seemed to make the heart grow fonder to the point where when people say, “New Hampshire is so beautiful,” I no longer grimace.

I only visit home twice a year. There is always a quick visit in the blazing summer where I would long for a family cookout – even though my longing usually turns into the laborious task of being the grill master every Independence Day. The other usually takes its time during Christmas, stuck inside with diet ginger ale and meager leftovers, anticipating the return trip to Pennsylvania to start the New Year. My last visit was during Fourth of July weekend and it was a typical visit comprised of family, friends, laughter, sadness, nostalgia, and Speedway Slurpees.

My sisters and I had decided to take an impromptu trip to Massachusetts to visit a friend. As you drive, you can count on endless acres of desolate cornfields, a scatter of Motel 6’s, and gas stations. My sister needed to make a pit stop to relieve one’s bladder and of course, our gas station of choice was none other than Speedway. Yes, we intended to use the restrooms, but our true intention was to excuse ourselves to a Speedway Slurpee. Speedway Slurpees hold a dear place in my heart. Copyrighted as a “Speedy Freeze,” this subzero, neon beverage can be contained in three sizes: 22 oz., 32oz., and 44 oz. They are unconventional sizes and it baffles me how oddly specific they are. In essence, it does not really matter. The real question is how many flavors can you fit in one cup. When you have amounted to young adult status with a more developed palate, you begin to be strategic and choose flavors that complement each other. My go-to will forever be blue-raspberry and Mountain Dew. You may catch me trying a new flavor. I hear the mango is delightful. Before you are ready for purchase, you fasten the dome lid and continue to pour it into the cup to reach its maximum capacity. Your first sip is the best and it debunks any notion of a nutritional conscience. Temperature? Chilling to the bone. Flavor? You can taste each color with such vitality. High fructose corn syrup? Absolutely.

I grew up drinking them and I will continue to drink them. I remember taking trips to Speedway after school, making it my quintessential fourth meal of the day. I have cried and laughed over them. It was my crutch, my fix, and my therapy. A Speedway Slurpee has nostalgia written all over it. One must not dismiss the influence of food in its relation to emotional prowess. Food is a memento to your childhood, culture, and identity and embraced with exceptional vigor. It may not be as culturally relevant as a Papa Gino’s Pizzeria or an Aroma Joe’s Coffee House, but it is every bit New Hampshire. When I moved to Pennsylvania, I quickly realized that any Speedway in the city were simply window-service gas stations with no hope of any Slurpee going down my throat. To say I was devastated is an understatement. Sure there is the competitor, the 7-Eleven Slurpee, but it is just not the same. On the bright side, I can always count on the Speedway Slurpee to bring me back to the place that gave birth to me. A Speedway Slurpee is home and every sip brings me closer to it.

Growing up in a small town is not everyone’s dream, and it was not necessarily mine either, but it was my reality. I come from a town where everyone knows everyone, whether you know them personally or through a mutual friend. No trip to the grocery store is complete without running into your neighbor or someone you know from middle school. I learned the “who’s who” of the town at a young age, and knew that I would be surrounded by those people while I was growing up, whether I liked them or not.

As a teenager, I did not particularly care for the town I lived in and I could not wait to escape. I did not like the fact that other people I rarely associated with probably knew everything about my personal life. I did not appreciate when parents would gossip about their kids or their kid’s friends, nor did I love when I or anyone I was close with became the center talking point. I felt trapped in my negative thoughts and desperately longed after the idea of leaving. But as time passed I grew to appreciate little things about my hometown. I loved when the sunset turned the sky into a canvas of pinks and purples. I was excited when local events, like the seafood festival or the fair, came to town. I smiled when the cashier at the grocery store was friendly, asking how my family was doing and if I had a chance to try the new restaurant that just opened down the street.

When it was finally time for me to pack up and move away to Pennsylvania, I felt an overwhelming amount of sadness to leave. It was weird to say goodbye to my classmates who I quite literally grew up with. I dreaded every goodbye, no matter who I was saying it to. For the longest time, I did not understand why I felt uneasy about leaving, but now I realize that I felt emotionally confused because I planted such strong roots in the town where everyone knew my name. I knew that no matter where I lived next, this town would always be my home.

I could go on and on about how it is beneficial to leave the town you grew up in. You cannot expect to experience all walks of life if you stay in the same spot forever, and you are doing yourself a disservice if you do not get out and explore the incredible world we live in. There is one thing about my town that makes it special, though. When I left, I realized what a strong community I had been a part of. Even though my town may not offer endless amounts of thrill and excitement, it does offer an endless amount of love and support. The sense of community that I feel when I am home is overwhelming. Yes, everyone might know my personal business – and that does bother me at times – but that can also mean people are willing to help you out if you need it.

I do not think I would have the strong friendships I have now without growing up in my town. I have been lucky enough to call the same two women my best friends for my entire life. We grew up together, we have been with each other through thick and thin, and we have seen each other transform into the young women we are now. Without the bond I have with them, I am not sure what my life would be like. I can think of several other people who have this same kind of bond with their friends, and it is all thanks to our home.

My small town taught me the importance of being there for each other, even when the going gets tough. The friendly faces I would see around town taught me to always be kind, no matter who I am talking to. I learned how to be active in the community I lived in, whether it be through volunteering or supporting others in their efforts to make a difference. Most of all, I learned not to measure the significance of people by their successes in life, but instead by the consistent support and outpouring of love they offer to others. Without my small town, I would not be who I am today, and I am pretty proud of who I have become. Perhaps there was more New Hampshire in me than I realized while living there.