What makes a hometown?
“Where are you from?” or “What’s your hometown?” is a question that I have struggled in figuring out how to answer for a lot of my life. For those who don’t spend their lives in one set place, how does one determine what their hometown is? Is it the place where you are born or the place you spent the most time in? Is it the place where you graduated high school and became an adult? Or is it the place where you first start growing up as a kid or preteen? Is it the place where you find yourself and feel happiest even if that isn’t until well into adulthood? Everyone’s definition of hometown might be a little different and it took me a long time to figure out my own definition, something I’m still not completely sure about.
I moved a fair amount as a kid. I was born in New Hampshire and lived there for a little bit, lived in Connecticut (and Washington State for a period of time that I was too young to really remember) as a young child. I lived in Rhode Island for late elementary school and middle school. I lived on Cape Cod in Massachusetts for high school.
When I went to college in DC, the question of hometowns was a frequent icebreaker and one I was never sure how to answer. If asked where I was from, I would generally just say Cape Cod since that was where I had lived most recently and had graduated high school. Cape Cod never felt like home for me though and I couldn’t bring myself to refer to it as a hometown. After all, I had only lived there for four years of high school and just never felt home there. Truthfully, I spent most of my time in high school focused on academics, extracurriculars and doing everything I could to get into a good college. Even now, when I run into people from the Cape, I don’t feel like I have any great shared experience in common with them from being “from” the same place.
I was born in New Hampshire, but moved away when I was too young to remember. We still visited New Hampshire plenty to see family, but until I moved back to the state as an adult, I couldn’t really identify a hometown here. Now that I have lived here for a while, combined with my family being here and having been born here – New Hampshire is clearly my home state, but not a hometown.
I was thinking about all of this today because I came across a picture of Narragansett, Rhode Island while I was scrolling through my instagram feed. It was a beautiful picture, but what stood out to me was the immediate sense of comfort and nostalgia that I felt looking at that picture. A feeling that I don’t experience when I look at pictures of other places where I once lived.
I lived in Narragansett between the ages of 9 and 14. I always felt strange describing it as my hometown because I wasn’t born there and didn’t graduate there, but that is where I lived for some of my most formative years of my childhood. Of all the places I lived as a child, Narragansett was where I most felt at home and where the majority of my fond childhood memories seem to have been formed. Looking at a picture of the towers in Narragansett, I wasn’t admiring the sunset and the waves that were the focus of the picture. Instead, I was remembering, walking along that road and the many bus rides home when we would often have to close all the bus windows soon after that exact spot due to an overwhelming low tide smell. Narragansett was the closest that I had to a home town. I have only been back a few times since we moved away, but when I have gone back it brings up such a profound sense of nostalgia and peace.
When we were trying to figure out where to live as a family, picking a hometown for our children, I tried to convince Cal to consider Narragansett – but the only state in New England that my Texan husband would consider was New Hampshire. Just as well though, we have found an awesome hometown for our kids and they both tell me regularly how much they like living in our sweet little mountain town. Connor has experienced a good number of moves with us. He was born in MA on the Cape, lived in DC, in three different towns in different parts of MA, and then two different parts of the state in NH. However, we moved to our town when he was 9 (the same age I almost was when we moved to Narragansett). We have no intention of moving from this town and I enjoy the feeling of roots that we are able to give our children. I have no doubt that they both consider this their hometown.