Of hometowns and the people who make them great

During the process of our recent relocation, Hubby has said a few things about the community in which we’d spent the past 16 years that surprised me. He wanted to leave. He never wanted to come back. He didn’t like this place, and didn’t know any of the people. He’s “always wanted” to live on the east coast.

We’re talking about the place where I grew up – a place he’d lived for 16 years. A place where everyone should want to raise their children. This is the village of which Hillary spoke.

Yes, it’s rural. It’s a long way from anywhere. If you’re not interested in the high school (and middle school, and elementary school) sports and other activities, you’re not going to have a lot of entertainment. It’s a nearly 30-mile drive if you want to work outside the home (though in this community, “work outside” generally references farming). It’s your stereotypical “everyone knows everyone” kind of place, and many of the residents are related. Wives tend to stay home while their kids are young, then find a job once the last one enters school. A lot of the wives go to school and get a teaching degree, and work in the local school, or one that’s nearby. Family, community and church are very important to these people.

I was one of these people. I grew up here, and it’s where I chose to raise my daughter – close to family, friends and people who look out for each other. Hubby entered the picture after the Little Girl was in school, and he seemed happy enough chasing her from activity to activity. But LG grew up, and moved out (mostly), and it was just the two of us. Coming home from work in the evenings and, if there was a game/activity (wedding, graduation, birthday party), I’d head out alone while he sat at home, playing World of Warcraft. We both wanted something different. I wanted to spend more time together, and he wanted the ability to see and do more things. He was “over” small-town living.

Thus, we found ourselves uprooting and moving across the country to a town where we knew no one, I had no job, and, frankly, there was nothing to do. So, I’d spend the day on the computer, looking for jobs, and applying for the very few that were out there. He’d head off to work and come home to find me in the throes of dinner-making. He’d sit at his computer, I’d serve dinner, then we’d both sit in front of a television with a computer on our laps. We’d moved across the country to do the exact same things we’d done before (except now I had no reason to leave the house, pretty much ever). Even if there had been things to do in Upstate New York, with me unemployed, we couldn’t afford to do them.

Five months later, we uprooted again (two boxes were still packed! Woot!), this time to Boston. Again, me at home, on the computer looking for jobs; him coming home from work to find dinner prep well in hand. We began taking walks in the evenings, and Hubby broke out the trusty old camera skills he’d mothballed several years before. I found a job which financially enables us to attend an event now and again. For the most part, though, we still have no local friends, and after our walks, we sit in front of the television with our computers in our laps. Aside from a couple baseball games and a foray to Boston Garden (yes, youngster, I know it has a corporate name now), we haven’t been to any events or activities we couldn’t have done at home.

This didn’t start out to be a rant about being dragged, kicking and screaming, from everyone and everything I know and love to a place where people talk funny and seem stunned that after four months, you haven’t decided this place is the BEST PLACE EVER AND I’M NEVER LEAVING. It was intended to talk about the community we’ve left behind, and the people who make it great.

A couple weeks ago, a fundraiser was held in my hometown’s school cafeteria for a young couple who are expecting a baby. The baby needs a lot of medical care, so the family will need to travel quite a distance prior to baby’s arrival, so the little one can be rushed into surgery immediately upon birth. This is not a rich family. It’s not a rich community. I don’t know how many people came to the fundraiser. What I do know is that in a community of fewer than 500 people, a fundraiser was held which raised more than $11,000 to help a young couple with their upcoming medical bills. I have no idea how much those bills will amount to once it’s all said and done, but I do know these two things: $11,000 will help these kids more than any of us can fathom, and this is the sort of community it is incredibly tough to leave.


Welcome to Bawstuhn!

“Welcome to Bahstuhn. Pahk your cah ovah heah. This rain’s a real pissah, but the weathah’s gonna be wicked on Satuhday onna-conna the 80-degree weathah. Heah’s an idear – once you’re done in the packy, let’s go get some chowdah.”

Just so we’re clear, not everyone in New England talks like this. Most of the people I’ve encountered have at least some accent, but the degree varies based on some factor which I don’t know. I’ve only heard a couple people say “wicked,” and none have said “pisser,” though I imagine if I hung out in Southie, the ratios would change.

It’s still a strange, new world; having moved to the Boston suburb of Quincy (inexplicably pronounced Quinzee) from Eastern Oregon, I’d thought my biggest challenges would be (after finding a job), figuring out the best way to commute to work, finding the grocery store with the best produce and locating an honest auto-repair shop to change my car’s oil. Little did I know. I’ve seen the movies and heard the jokes, but I’ve met people from Boston, and they didn’t talk like this! Not just the accents – there are regional colloquialisms and words with completely different meanings from the rest of the country.

Here, people drive cahs, drink in bahs and root for their Stanley Cup Champion Broons. If you order chowdah, you’ll get New England clam chowder, never the Manhattan style, and occasionally a corn chowder or other variety. Don’t confuse chowdah with a chowdah-head, which is either a dummy or a Boston native, depending on how it’s used.

My husband’s office is not on Dorchester Avenue, as the sign says, but on Dot-av. To get to work, I can take Mass-av to Comm-av, or I might take the Pike to Cam-av. If I’m feeling adventurous, I could take 128, though good luck finding it, since highway signs announce it as 95 and/or 93. Or, I could take the T (subway, aka: The Rattler) from Nawth Quinzee to Pahk Street and transfer to the green line. To add to the confusion, there are no freeways in Boston. They have expressways, highways and The Pike (Massachusetts Turnpike), sometimes known as MassPike.

Bostonians (Bawstonians) put jimmies on their ice cream, eat grinders and spuckies while drinking tonic, and go to the packy to purchase beer (beah) or liquor (that’s chocolate sprinkles, toasted sub sandwiches, hoagies, soda [soder] pop and liquor store, to the rest of us). Is there any other town in which you can walk into a deli and order a three-way? In Boston, if you order a roast beef sandwich “three-way,” it comes with cheese, sauce and mayo. Prior to ordering a three-way in Boston, the conversation may sound something like this: “Jeet?” “No, ju?”

Did you know that if you order a milkshake in Boston, you’ll end up with frothy milk – with or without flavored syrup, depending on how you order it. If you want an actual milkshake (the kind with ice cream), order a frappe. If you’re looking for a water fountain, ask around for a bubbler (or a bubblah – they’ll know). If you drive clockwise on a rotary, you could end up face-to-face with a statey (rotary = traffic circle or roundabout; statey = state policeman, or often, any policeman, who are also called “The Boys”). Before you hook a right, or bang a left, you’ll want to use your directional (turn signal or blinker). One also “bangs a u-ey,” which I’ve always heard as “flip a u-ey,” though I don’t recall ever having “flipped a left.” Boston drivers are called “Massholes” for good reason (just don’t confuse them with “Maine-iacs”).

For most of us, garbage is garbage. Not so New Englanders. Rubbish is dry trash, garbage is wet trash, and they both go into a barrel. If you want to spend a day with your family at a park, you’ll want to go to a reservation. They have reservations for skiing, fishing, hiking – virtually all outdoor activities.

For dry cleaning, go to the cleansers, and if you’re in a grocery store, grab a carriage to hold your purchases. The parlor is what we know as a living room, and a porch is a “piazza.” A stolen car is a hot box and if you ask someone for a ride to the spa, you’re likely to end up in a convenience store.

On a few occasions, I have seen signs posted that read: “No Trespassing. Police Take Notice,” and wondered whether the sign posters were threatening would-be trespassers about the watchful eyes of the police, or whether they were encouraging the police to “look over here” in case of trespassers. Turns out it’s the latter. No anecdotal evidence to share about how well the signs work, on either count.

You may have encountered Worcestershire sauce in your life, and been flummoxed by the pronunciation. My mother assured me it was “worstershire.” The town Worcester, Mass., which, if the sauce theory holds, should be pronounced “worster,” or even “wooster,” is “Wistah,” though “Woostah” is also acceptable.

All this to say: these people talk funny. The good thing about funny, though, is it makes us laugh. So Bawstuhn: you keep talking, and I’ll keep laughing.