I’m going home in a couple weeks. Home for me is Sidney, New York. Population: around 5,000. I love my hometown. Although I moved away 16 years ago just after finishing graduate school, I have many fond memories of Sidney and I miss so many things about it. Sidney was an awesome place to grow up as a kid and, for an adult, a great place to raise a family. I still miss it to this day.
My anticipation for going back home is much different nowadays than it was 16 years ago when I moved 700 miles away. Back then I was 23 years old and my first pilgrimage back to the homeland was for Thanksgiving. At that time in my life, and the lives of many of my closest friends, going home for Thanksgiving meant getting drunk for four straight nights and trying to hook up with old high school girlfriends. Getting a roast beef sub from the Country Store was an added bonus. Plus, the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving was the greatest night of the year in Sidney, and the place to be was a bar known as “The Community”. My friends and I were supposedly intelligent, recent college graduates, and all involved in professional careers. But when we were all together and back home, we could easily have been mistaken for a group of college frat boys. Or better yet, the guys from the movie Beautiful Girls. Except none of my friends drove a snow plow or was having an affair with a married woman (that I know of).
I remember leaving work in South Carolina somewhere mid-afternoon on a Wednesday in 1995. I drove to Sidney in less than 10 hours, stopping once to relieve myself and fill up the recently purchased four-door, stick-shift, Saturn. Why didn’t anybody tell me how uncool a Saturn was? I was so intent on making it to the bar for the usual “Wednesday night before Thanksgiving” debauchery that I drove straight to the bar. I didn’t even bother to go to my parents house to say hello and let them know I made it safely. And no, I didn’t have a cell phone back then to text or call. Surprisingly, my parents weren’t surprised, nor did they show any concern. As expected the “boys” were already there with a cold one waiting. We all managed to show up at the same place even without Facebook, texting or BBMing. Then again, there is only one bar in Sidney. When I walked in to the overwhelming smell of cigarette smoke, shoulder-to-shoulder people and the sight of Genny Light pounders, I knew I was home. It was like this for every holiday for the next 5 years or so. Then, we all got older, got married and had kids.
Now I have an eight-year-old daughter. I am taking her with me this time to the homeland. She has been there before, but the last time she was too young to even remember. This time I want to show her so many things. I want to show her the house on West Main Street where I grew up and learned to ride bikes, play baseball, football and basketball. I want to show her the school I went to and tell her about all the amazing teachers I had. She will be floored that there is only one elementary school, one middle school and one high school in Sidney. In Charlotte, there are at least a dozen high schools alone. I can’t wait for her to ask where the modular class rooms (trailers) are to hold all the extra kids that the school can’t hold.
I want to show her the pee-wee baseball field where I first got a glimpse of my competitiveness and disdain for losing. When my team, the Blue Jays lost to the Parrots, I yelled at the top of my lungs, “The Parrots suck”. No question everyone had heard me. Thank God there were no bars of Lava soap at my house. I think my Mom settled on a bar of Dial.
Not far from this field, I can take her to the football field where we played every home Friday night football game in high school. She would be proud of old number 82. I started every game for two years at the wide receiver position. The defenses were so good back then they held me to 10 catches over that two-year span. Man, we football players were the coolest things on the planet. We even wore eye black and some guys had neck rolls attached to their shoulder pads. We were a .500 team every year, but now it feels like we were undefeated. We had so much fun!
I want to show her we can walk clear across town in probably 30 minutes. However this isn’t really possible because everybody knows everybody, even if you moved away 16 years ago. You can’t make it across town without stopping to talk. Yet another thing I love about Sidney.
Once we make it across town I can show her the high school baseball field, which actually isn’t there anymore. But I can show her the plot of land where I batted .111 my senior year. I will be very quick to point out my .970 fielding percentage as a first baseman. Come on; give me a break. That’s all I have, aside from my mediocre basketball career. Oh, and since you are probably wondering, 16 points per game.
Each time I visit Sidney, not a lot changes. And that’s why I like it. Something can be said for a place that remains solid and thrives according to its own set of standards. It certainly is a nice break from the rat race which is everywhere else.
I’m not sure if my daughter will have any appreciation for what my hometown means to me or how special the people are, or how many close friends I still have who grew up in Sidney. She will probably only remember that nobody has air conditioning, there’s no Chick-Fil-A and the drive from North Carolina to New York sucks.