I Grew Up in a Good Place to be From

I grew up in a good place to be from.

My childhood home was a one-story house secluded back in an odd array of neighborhoods. It was a good distance to get to any actual road, so when the lights turned off at night it was completely quiet. The house was the perfect size, no bigger and no smaller than necessary, for my brother Caden, parents, dog Mazie, and I. However goldilocks the size was for my five-person nuclear family, it always expanded to welcome others. My best friend in fifth grade, Kyra, used to ask to come over after soccer practice because she thought our hour was more “cozy” than her’s. My mom told me that “cozy” was just a nice way of saying “small”. I told her that “small” didn’t make sense in the context, because why would Kyra want to come over and watch One Direction video diaries on the floor of our living room because it was “smaller”?

Our basement housed the best roller rink west of the Mississippi and all of my elementary school friends learned to roller skate in that basement. I would take my mom’s iPod, plug it into the Jukebox stereo to play Kesha, and we would skate around the cement basement while Mazie chased us until we could take off our helmets and sweat matted our hair down in an unnatural oval. We didn’t care though, because at that time we were little kids who hadn’t yet learned that we needed to be worried about how we looked.

The exterior of the house had points of harmony as well. The backyard had a screened-in porch that held its fair share of gatherings of family and friends, and a green rocking chair that I sat in every day the summer before third grade as I wrote my first novel. There was a rope swing hanging down from one of the trees’ strong branches and a sprinkler thrown awry in the yard that Caden and I would hook up a hose to in the summertime. My mom would use the same hose to fill up buckets full of water balloons on the last day of school so that Caden and I could invite our friends over to have a water balloon fight to ring in summer. The tradition continued through my junior year of high school. The front yard was where we played basketball, drew with sidewalk chalk, played whiffle ball and saw if we could hit the balls so hard they went over the house and landed in the backyard, and where I practiced pitching for softball. My mom would squat down for hours with one of Caden’s old baseball mitts as I would send her pitch after pitch.

Our little plot of land that held our house, backyard, and front yard sat in the farthest neighborhood from the small local highway and sat on a circular block what we called “our block” that housed a common area in the middle. Once Caden and I measured the distance of that block where we frequently walked Mazie and it came out to be exactly a quarter mile long. In that quarter mile, there was one playground, two large fields, three soccer goals, and a whole bunch of other kids our age. Across the street was Taj, who was almost my exact age. During the summers a few of the neighborhood kids would gather at his house to play soccer. Taj was the goalie and the garage door was the goal. Then we grew up old enough that when I wound up and took a kick, the ball left a dent in their garage door. We weren’t allowed to play soccer in his driveway anymore after that.

I’m not sure why we hadn’t just walked to the field three houses away with real soccer goals in it, especially since that’s where Caden and I spent a majority of our time. Being three years older than me, he was also three years wiser than me in soccer knowledge, but I never admitted that to him. Once he told me that when everyone on my first grade soccer team and the opposing team got into that little circle that little kids do where they all just kick the ball at each other, I should stand on the outside because eventually the ball would make it out of the circle and there would be nobody there guarding me. The next weekend during my soccer game I did exactly that and scored a goal, I took all the credit on the drive home. A couple of years later when I joined a club team, Caden told me that when I was going for a 50/50 ball, I needed to put my arms over my check and just run into the opponent if they were in the way of me getting the ball. He had me practice it a few times with him, and each time Caden rocketed me backward. The next weekend at a soccer game I saw my opportunity. I mustered up all my strength as I ran for the ball– Caden had knocked me on my butt a few times and that was the last thing I wanted to happen in front of my teammates and coaches. Neither I nor the other girl backed off, and I hit her with such force she fell over and had to be carried off the field. I got a yellow card and blamed it all on Caden during the drive home. My mom told me that I had to remember that during games I wasn’t playing against my older brother who was 50 pounds heavier than me.

Even when it wasn’t summer, my parents pushed Caden and me to be outside and active, although I’m sure we would have been bouncing off the walls if they hadn’t. For the three years, Caden and I were at the same elementary school, my mom would walk us to school. We would walk down the street, through a common area, across a stream, and up a hill. When Caden went to middle school I rode the bus more since the middle school started later. I didn’t mind riding the bus once Caden left though, because walking to school was a thing the three of us did together and it wasn’t really the same without him. Sometimes I walked alone, which was okay with my parents because our neighborhood was so safe. Sometimes in middle school, I’d stay out with my friends at the park as it started to get dark, and the only complaint my parents had was that I was late for dinner.

The main reason my parents picked this cozy hour in this safe neighborhood was because of the excellent school district. I didn’t realize how good the schools were until high school which is understandable because in elementary school you’re a child and in middle school you’re just trying to survive. My high school offered every AP class that the College Board offered, regularly gave free Pre-ACTs, and never had to worry about violence or other things I had heard of from my soccer teammates’ schools like girls who pierced their ears in the middle of class. My school wasn’t incredibly rich, but it also wasn’t poor– the perfect combination for very bougie people. Girls wearing Lululemon, boys wearing Vineyard Vines. Weed was the drug of choice and yoga moms with dyed blonde hair driving black Escalades bought their kids alcohol to make sure they were popular.

In the thick of it, I didn’t realize how lucky I was that my main problem in high school was feeling like I didn’t fit in. As I became an upperclassman, I also didn’t realize how lucky I was that I was anxious about what college I was going to choose, and not how I was going to afford it.

It feels like I’ve lived a whole lot of life in the past three years, which coincides with graduating high school. I’ve learned a lot about my own life by living and interacting with people who are nothing like me, and I realized that there is a lot more I have to be grateful for than I realized. Like how my dad always worked a full-time job and while he was physically gone eight hours of the day he was still always around, and how my mom found a part-time job where she worked the same hours Caden and I went to school and was off in the summers to entertain us. How both my parents were always supportive and understanding while still pushing Caden and me to do our best. How they saved up enough money to send Caden and me to university debt free. How they always prioritized activities and passions over material things so even though we live in this cozy house, we have an extensive knowledge of the world and the country we live in.

I just returned back home from university yesterday, and as I was driving I noticed myself getting disappointed that I would be returning to my hometown for a month until my summer job started. With reintegrating myself into the Midwest after living in the heart of Madrid and being surrounded by people from big cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago it’s easy to look around and notice all the things these smaller towns are lacking. However it’s also given me the perspective to broaden my horizons and realize that even though I am now 20 years old and think that the Midwest is all too small for me now, I wouldn’t have chosen a different place to grow up.

Yours truly,



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