by Brianna Zigler

Most kids I know hate the town they live in. They hate the people in school they’ve had to tolerate every day, and the shops they’ve been to too many times, and the roads they’ve driven on until they can remember the exact amount of stop signs and the amount of time it takes for a red light to turn green at the intersection. For most of the kids I know, the town they live and grew up in has become an object of abhorrence, slowly over time, a place to someday escape from, and the catalyst to a burning motivation to dream big and make goals for themselves that exist beyond the town limits. And out of every one I know, I am the only person who loves their hometown like a good book you’ve read twice, or a funny movie you’ve seen at least six times that still hits you in all the right ways during the best parts. I’ve walked down more alleys and tread more steps on railroad tracks than I can count in my head, I’ve stopped by the family-owned deli in my neighborhood so often that they recognize me instantly whenever I walk in. I’ve adventured to a secret woodland hideout where the stoners built a mini skate park out of old sofas and wooden boards that rest over ditches and small puddles, where they nailed wood to a tree in an effort to construct a tree house, carelessly left their old bikes dirty and rusted over roots, but we went there to dip our feet in the creek and wade through the tiny stream, equipped with little Zip-Lock bags to catch the frogs that jumped just out of our reach.

I never quite understood why anyone would so badly want freedom from the town they grew up in, where they met their first best friend and got their first kiss and snuck out for the first time. When I walk down the streets of my town all I feel is the essence of the footsteps I’ve left on the sidewalks and the laughter that’s still tangled in air from five years ago, turning fourteen and nothing being of importance to my friends and I except who said what about that girl, or tickets to the Valentine’s dance, or the newest All Time Low song that we can’t stop singing at the top of our lungs throughout the quiet, solitary lines of row homes, singing while we write inside jokes on the picnic tables at the park by my house. I can’t take a walk through my town without soaking in the memories that we left stitched into the sidewalk cracks and hung up with a funny-looking thrift shop dress that I tried on just because we had nothing else to do.

My friends and I, we were our own hometown heroes; we defined our town in our own way. We dragged our marks through Fall Out Boy lyrics screamed incessantly as we ran across the street, and arguments we started with the other kids in my neighborhood for no reason other than that we were bored, throwing end-of-the-year picnic parties that always evolved into a verbal brawl between someone and someone else, or going to the movie theater that never checked IDs for R rated movies and would let a small group of innocent thirteen-year-olds in without the single slightest hesitation. Growing up in my town was watching everyone I love grow up too, watching them fall apart and turn sadness into strength, losing friends that I never needed, and gaining friends I felt like I had known my whole life, transitioning through phase after phase of clothing styles and music genres, discovering who I am and what I love, where I want to go, who I want in my life when I’m home from college with more free time than packets of Ramen noodles. I can move away from my hometown, as far as humanly possible, to the molten core of the earth, to the frigid barren ice of Antarctica and further, but a part of me broke off and grew into the roots of the trees in my backyard, dug itself deeper into the heart of my town, a part of me that will always live in a local thrift shop or in my best friend’s basement, even after I am gone.