Like many, I grew up in a small town and took the leap to move to a large university. Overwhelming, yes. Worth it? You bet ya.
My hometown is a small community nestled within the Hudson Valley redolent with the odors of horse manure, incense often burned to cover the smell of freshly smoked marijuana, the unique waft of the Esopus Creek, and the best fresh air you will ever have the pleasure of inhaling. On the west, you’ll find the Catskills. To the east, the Hudson River welcomes the sunrise every morning.
Saugerties, Exit 20 on the New York State Thruway, is the place I call home. I could drive those pitch-black streets without hesitation or second thought, constantly scanning for deer, a habit formed by any true Northeasterner.
‘Where did you grow up?’
A commonly asked question found throughout any first conversation. While some answer automatically Boston, New York City, Washington D.C., Seattle etc, I have to choose my answer more carefully. Attending Cornell University, a prestigious uppity Ivy League where judgment rolls off the tongue almost as often as the total net worth of “daddy’s trust fund,” I’ve learned that first impressions are everything.
“Where did you grow up?”
If I say Saugerties, they will think I’m a naïve small-town girl who will flounder in this huge college town? If I say Woodstock, they will think me a hippie, a stoner, and down to earth.
Why do I so often hide that I am from Saugerties? The birthplace of Jimmy Fallon, voted one of the top ten coolest small towns by Travel Magazine, and proud home of the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival. Saugerties now even has its own minor-league baseball team, the Saugerties Stallions.
I pondered this question for a week. Why was it that I did not want to tell people I was from this town?
“You must smoke so much weed if you live near Woodstock.”
The click-clack of riding boots. The smell of horse manure I mentioned before? The rev of the Range Rovers and the eyerolls of the townies. A nationally acclaimed course, the arena attracts hundreds of rich snobby out-of-towners that infiltrate the town every May through September. They bring business to the local shops and bring traffic to our streets. I can honestly say I am overjoyed that I am interning in the New York City.
The ‘Cornell Calves’ have been integrated into my childhood.
For anyone who has ever visited Ithaca, you know how similar it is to San Francisco. Well, not that filled with drastic changes in inclines. But let’s put it this way. If I dropped a round object on the ground at any given time, it is highly likely that it would roll in one direction, down very quickly.
Although Saugerties is not built on a hill, it is a short drive to some of the best hiking around. The Catskills are beautiful, and have left their mark on my large and in-shape legs. Home to Hunter Mountain, one of the better skiing and snowboarding areas around, the Catskills draw tourists year-round.
Yes I live on the Hudson River. No, it is not as pretty as you think. Do not eat the fish.
When I was younger, my family would walk our dogs down to the Saugerties Lighthouse, where I would go swimming. My mother made me shower immediately after.
Westchester is not Upstate. Please stop. Please.
‘Well, I’m not actually from Woodstock. It’s actually a town called Saugerties.”
You’d know what I mean if I showed you the town. One sentence does not illustrate the beautiful sunsets, the summer bonfires with a view of trickling streams, the friendly and familiar faces waving at me as I drive through Main Street in my beat-up 2005 Subaru Forester. In one sentence I could not embody my memories of kayaking the Hudson with my friends, the fond familiar smell of fresh-cut grass spreading out over the soccer fields of Cantine Field.
Two hours north of the Big Apple, Saugerties is a common destination to purchase a summer home, creating a strange mix of artists, townies, college kids returning home for the summer, and families, plus wealthy New Yorkers. This mix of people trickles down into the stores, ranging from mom-and-pop shops that have been there all my childhood, like the Dutch Ale House, the best place to get a local brew (not that I would know), to expensive boutiques. Living right in the town, I was accustomed to my father, a man I love dearly, riding his moped, not motorcycle, into town to grab ice cream for my family or a few tools from the local hardware store.
I could go on for hours about each little store, each corner of the town that has created memories for me. I have won regional championships in soccer and lacrosse on those grass fields.
I remember the exact location I was standing when I opened my acceptance letter from Cornell University, the place I had my first kiss, and the place I’ve worked all my life, Adams Fairacre Farms.
My point is that a hometown is more than just a town. It’s a birthplace for its citizens, each with a different story, a different special place, different memories and different dreams. I will always have a little place in my heart for Saugerties.