I am a monumentally somewhat cynical person. I know this. I accept this.
So when the chance presented itself for me to attend a local fundraiser modeled after Dancing With The Stars (including prominent local figures paired with dance professionals,) I confess my internal dialogue went right to “um, that’s a little hokey, no?”
But it was presented as an opportunity to attend and then write an article about the evening and the foundation the evening benefits; so off I went in the back of my editor’s minivan, not quite knowing what to expect. Whatever I could have expected, it never could have compared to what I actually found – in the event, and in myself because of it.
It didn’t occur to me that I would see people I knew. Which seems ridiculous to say in hindsight – you were raised here, Keri. You know this town. This town knows you.
I’d forgotten. I had lost that; or maybe thought that all of us had lost that in the passing years. In the warm, genuine hugs and smiles and inquiries of wonderfully familiar faces I remembered again.
Sitting in the dark, surrounded by people who so love this place, people I know, children of people I know, I was overtaken by the sense of community. I hadn’t expected it, and It engulfed me like a tidal wave. I lost my breath.
I Could. Not. Stop. Smiling. I found it (or rather it found me.) That connection I’d been missing since we moved back. The understanding of where I fit. Of belonging to a place. Of being home.
In that moment, in that space, my heart just swelled up, so fast and so completely full , and broke the internal Grinchy meter of my cynicism.
Riding back home in the darkness and drizzle, I looked out that minivan window and suddenly I saw it all again – the bones and the soul of the little hometown I loved so fiercely in my youth. And the good things about what has grown and filled in and taken shape in my absence.
For the first time it didn’t feel like a betrayal to my “Reluctantly Suburban” persona to understand where I fit in the story of my hometown. Or even to be ok with it being my son’s hometown as well.
It didn’t feel like a threat to my love of the city to have a sense of belonging here – not just in my past, but in the present and in our family’s future as well.