By the time I graduated from high school, I had lived in 11 different homes in four states. I remember going off to college, and everyone was asking, “Where are you from?” as an ice breaker. I didn’t know how to answer such a simple question, but if I rephrase the question as “Where did you grow up?” I would answer, “Newark, New York.”
Newark is about halfway between Syracuse and Rochester. When I lived there, the population was about 10,000, not too big and not too small. My family moved there when I was seven, and we moved away when I was 14, so I figure that’s where I grew up. Here I present a list of things I loved about Newark.
- My teachers. Not all of them, of course, but frankly I never had a warm, caring teacher until I started second grade at Perkins School. (I make an exception for Miss Ann, my nursery school teacher, but I should mention that I went to three different schools for first grade and never had a pleasant teacher.) Miss Cyr, Mrs. Shouey, and Mr. Haak were some of the best teachers I ever had. Honorable mentions also go to Mr. Howlett and Mr. Wood, who both seemed like gruff old men, but actually cared very much about their students and gave me strong foundations in grammar and pre-algebra, respectively.
- Hoffman Park. It was just two blocks from our first house in Newark, so my sister Heather and I could walk down there by ourselves to play on the playground. We spent a lot of time on the teeter totter.
- Friends. I lived in Newark long enough to get to know all the kids in school with me. I made friends that I was able to keep for years (even after we moved away!). I was so used to leaving my playmates behind after a year or two that it seems pretty amazing to me that I was still friends in eighth grade with girls I had met in second and third grade.
- Orbaker’s. This was my family’s favorite ice cream stand. Occasionally we would go there for burgers or hot dogs, but we were definitely regulars on hot summer nights. My favorite treat was a mint milkshake. No need to wait for March to roll around at McDonalds – I could have mint milkshakes all summer long at Orbaker’s!
- Emily. When we moved to Newark, we had five people in our family: my parents, me, six-year-old Heather, and 11-month-old Noelle. On March 12, 1986, we added Emily, and our family was complete. I was 11 when she was born, and it was pretty amazing to have a baby sister I could help take care of. I have two favorite memories related to her birth. First, I remember going with my dad (and Heather and Noelle) to Fay’s Drugs while my mom was still in the hospital. We kept running into people we knew, and Dad would say, “Have you heard? Four girls!” The friendly acquaintance would inevitably say, “That means four weddings!” And Dad would answer, “Four ladders!” The thing was, even though he was joking about not wanting to pay for our weddings, I could tell he was thrilled to have another daughter. My other memory is from visiting the hospital to meet our new sister. A nurse was holding Emily in a rocking chair just inside the doorway to the nursery. She told us to talk to our baby sister because she would recognize our voices. That blew me away – my baby sister already knew me.
- Our houses. We lived in two different houses in Newark because we outgrew the first one when Emily was born. I loved them both – maybe because we were so happy in them – but I have to say that our second house is my all-time favorite. First of all, it had five bedrooms, so none of us had to share. My bedroom was at the back of the house and had a purple carpet. I was right across the hall from the bathroom, which was handy, and I was the closest to the back stairs. So cool! The house had a big L-shaped front porch with a pretty vine growing up a trellis along one side, and we loved to sit out there on summer nights. And if that’s not enough, we had an inground pool. Yes, for four summers we could go swimming pretty much every day in our own backyard. As an adult, I don’t envy my parents the time and expense that went into maintaining that pool, but as a middle-schooler, it was the best thing ever.
- Extended family. This was the first time we had ever lived close by any relatives. We moved to Newark at least in part because my Uncle Bill and Aunt Kathy and cousins Colleen and Jimmy already lived there. Soon after we were settled there, my maternal grandmother moved to Newark too so she could be close to all of us. The rest of my relatives on my mom’s side of the family were all in the Syracuse area, not too far away. Now we could have holidays and special celebrations like First Communions with lots of aunts and uncles and cousins. But even better, we could just go over to Colleen and Jimmy’s house to play on a Saturday afternoon. We could walk down to Grandma’s apartment after school for a visit. Grandma taught Heather and me to do latch hook, a popular craft in the eighties. I learned to ice skate on Colleen and Jimmy’s pond. I could write a whole post on my fond memories of growing up with family close by. In fact, I had to pause in the middle of typing that last sentence as so many of them came flooding back to me.
I could go on about Newark and all the people there who still mean so much to me, but I know that my posts tend to be on the long side. I’d love to hear about where my readers grew up and what made it a great place.