I think someone famous once said, “You can’t go home again.” Well, you can but it ain’t the same.
Growing up in a small town is knowing that there are people on your street who know your story. They know your mother, father, brother, sister, and all the details. They know the color of your hair and if you scored well on the tests in school. They know whether you were one of the “Cool” bad kids or one of the good bookworms with high grades on a path to University. I grew up in a small town which ended in “ville.” A small town where the nearest neighbor was at least a 20 minute walk up a steep hill in the Catskill Mountains. The town was called Jeffersonville. There were mostly German people who lived there. In my small town, there was one restaurant, one grocery store, one insurance office,
one bank, one custard stand which was owned by my family. In a blink of an eye, you could pass through the town. When I left Jeffersonville, I looked up the population and it said 350 people. I am sure there were that many people just in the school but in my graduating class, there were only 50 people and most of them began kindergarten with me and finished 12th grade with me. I was #4 in line for grades with my class. We were known as the family that left New York City.
Growing up in a small town is interesting. We had some characters including a neighbor, Gladys who was located at the top of Youngsville Hills. She spied on us with her binoculars (pee-noc-u-lars) and then would tell my mother what was going on with those summer people houses, the ones from New York (Yawk) City. I spied on them too when my mom and I went for our walks and we would walk up the dirt road which led to their summer house. There was a recording studio in the barn and Mr. Goldberg owned a bright yellow Porsche which was cool especially when he gave my mom a lift to Jeffersonville and our store one morning. I was always curious patterning myself after Nancy Drew. I would snoop around when they weren’t there during the week trying to peer inside the house. Imagine my fright one day when I heard from inside the house the sound of piano keys tinkling. My mom and I ran down the dirt road giggling. She was my best friend in crime and a good friend to have. We knew I wouldn’t stay in Jeffersonville, but it was a much safer and friendlier place than residing in quickly changing Queens, N.Y.
As one of the few store owners, we enjoyed some celebrity status as owners of the ice cream shop. My mom was very lively and open and she had lots of stories to tell. There was the man who owned the duck as a pet and would come to get an ice cream for his duck which wore diapers. She also often held court with gossip with the local teachers including the social studies teacher who lived in a boarding house across the street and Ms. S who was originally from New York and she and my mom would discuss everything for hours in between visits from the football team coming in for their shakes and hamburgers and the summer camps nearby.
We didn’t have problems with drugs back then and the only drug around was alcohol and getting drunk at Lake Andawanda. Patty Hearst spend some time in a farmhouse just outside of Jeffersonville. My brother’s friend, Matt kept telling everyone that he had met her at a bar and everyone just laughed at the story. It turned out the story was true. We also had some well known artists including James Mangold who lived in a summer house near my parents in the next town over. His work is displayed at the Metropolitan and he was a friend of my fathers; they would drink a beer together. He offered a painting to my father once and my dad said, “No, as he didn’t care for modern artwork.” Matthew , my brother’s friend, is now a published poet and teaches English at a University in the mid West. We all shared the same very strict and very old school English teacher, Mrs. Clark, a stern faced lady who taught us grammar, introduced us to the classics, and prepared us to pass the AP English exam.She was an old school instructor and she never wanted to be friends with us, only teach us. Thank you.
My best friend, Maureen, and the person I shared a car ride with to my first waitress job was a year younger than me. We spoke often of how much we looked forward to leaving our small town. The last memory that I have of the small town is Maureen and I walking along the side of the road and speaking of how we can’t wait to leave and never come back. I can still remember the conversation. Our life would begin the moment we left the small town. Over the years that followed, Maureen and I kept in touch. She spent time in Japan teaching and visited me in New York City after I signed a one year lease on an apartment in a very bad section of Queens. I can still remember walking by the garage with the men calling out to us as we went by. That was the last I heard from Maureen and we went our own routes. I heard that she is somewhere in Oregon and I am in Florida. We are on a different spectrum and might as well be on a different planet.
We didn’t know that the small town led us back to who we were. Or I didn’t know. The small town still inhabits my life despite living in big cities and metropolitan areas; I am still reminded of my years growing up in the small town where everyone knew each other. And each place I visit, I find my own small town….a friend or two I am comfortable with, a store I like, and a restaurant I prefer…how about the library I like to visit and there are indefinitely more choices than one bookmobile, one custard stand, one grocery store, one bank and so it is more complicated but at the same time I have learned to adjust. There are the days that I wouldn’t mind returning to that small town, walking the same road with Maureen and discussing all the roads we have taken since. That is the day I look forward to….you can’t go home again but you can visit.
Jeffersonville is a charming older village nestled in the Western part of the Sullivan County Catskills. You will see that Jeffersonville’s Main Street (Route 52) is loaded with entrepreneurial spirit offering an eclectic mix of shops, restaurants and businesses. Conveniently located near Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, the Woodstock Museum and the beautiful, scenic and recreational Delaware River. On the main street of Jeffersonville you will find shopping spots for art, antiques and gifts, and great places to stop for a meal. (Jeffersonvilleny.com)