After years had passed, I drove up to the place where I once lived. It was strange to see how the town has changed. Most of the stores had closed, and though the town always appeared to be outdated, it seemed to have aged even more since I left.
The small soda shop with pristine memorabilia from the 1950’s had closed its doors. I suppose the economy was hit too hard in places like this. I suppose I never thought about what happens in places other than my own.
As I walked passed some of the shops, I was reminded why I enjoyed this town so much. An elderly man walked passed and said the most incredible thing to me. He said, “Hello.”
For some reason, this simple term is seldom used in the Midtown streets of New York City. The old man smiled as he passed. I nodded and responded politely.
“Hello.” What a strange thing it is to say, but yet, so simple.
The upstate town is small. It is so small, in fact, that it is easy to miss. I don’t suppose I would have ever known about this place had I not lived there towards the end of my teenage years. But nevertheless, this town has a very special meaning to me. So do the long, empty roads and the large farms with lazy cattle grazing in the fields. Even now, miles and years away from this time, I still recall the river, which ran beneath a steel bridge. I recall the old, abandoned barns that seemed to lean to the side and remind me of the paintings by Thomas Kinkade.
This was my place of refuge during the birth of my sobriety. Amongst my crazy transformation and struggles, I was warmest during the coldest months of the year. I had the chance to stare at the mountainsides and watch the seasonal shift of Mother Nature. And had I been asked in my young age, I would have never thought I would consider this to be the best time of my youth.
True, I missed the rites of passage that come with teenage life. And while most of the 17 year-olds I knew were wondering about their prom, or getting their driver’s license, I was tossing hay bales onto a truck; I was doing 3:00am fire-watches, walking to a barn beneath a starlit sky, and putting firewood inside the furnace of a farmhouse.
But in the most important change of my life, and in the saddest of times, I recall the snowy hillsides in the small town of Hancock, New York—and I recall them well.
Regardless to the decades that have passed, I still dream of this place, as if it were yesterday. I still remember the “Family” I lived with in my prayers.
I often think about packing up, trading the view of city skyscrapers for mountainsides and long-winged hawks that circle above the clouds. I think about selling my home, and if I could pull of my trick, I’d like to find a log cabin somewhere near the river. I’d like to find an old typewriter, an oak table, and the rest could be history.
But mostly, I think I’d like to live someplace where people say hello for no reason at all….
wouldn’t that be nice?