From the Editor | Taylor Kirby
Small town America is a polarizing space. When small town also equals hometown, the phrase becomes even more charged. For some, small towns signify comfort, constancy, and a place that can’t be left behind. For others, it represents a vacuum. Stagnation. A place that belongs in a rearview mirror.
I’ve written more than once about how I fall into the latter group, and I’d like to think my aversion to small towns isn’t completely founded on adolescent angst. As recently as last semester, I added a new line to my list of complaints while taking a Prison and Social Justice class: flanking a high-security prison, my hometown was one of many that functioned as a school-to-prison pipeline, meaning that opportunities run so far and few between that most residents either end up incarcerated or guarding their former quarterbacks. Imagine my surprise when, while charting a path to a Crested Butte wedding (honoring our very own former editor-in-chief, Savannah Nelson), I found myself planning a detour to my old stomping grounds.
This isn’t the story of how I learned to love my hometown. As I walked the paths I hadn’t seen in over three years, I was mostly just happy the boundaries of my life had extended beyond three country roads; I wasn’t as bored with the scenery as I used to be, but I was happy to get back in the car and continue driving towards Savannah’s festivities. It was an exercise that foiled the old with the new, and the new didn’t look half bad.
While we finished the drive through golden mountain ranges, and even while we danced the autumn chill away at the reception, I was stuck asking myself a cliché question: “what is home?” By all traditional accounts, I’m lying when I call Buena Vista my hometown. I lived there for just two years, but what else would I call the place I graduated from high school and left behind for college? Do my three years living in Chattanooga, TN. or my four years in Tampa, FL. really trump those experiences?
This isn’t a question I tend to dwell on. Because I’ve moved so often, home for me has always been reading a book with a cat on my lap, and that definition isn’t shaped by geography. Even so, my lack of nostalgia in Buena Vista surprised me—until I saw Savannah dancing with an army of friends and family. She was a born and raised Gunnison resident, and she never had to second guess her claim on the word “hometown,” but even though her wedding was in Crested Butte, her home was very much with her that day.
I’ll be applying to graduate programs across the country this semester, and if I’m lucky enough to be accepted to any of them, I might be calling Denver my hometown by this time next year—and my lie will finally be a nostalgic one.