Hometowns everywhere

Marcy O’Brien

As my firstborn left for college, a friend reassured me, “It’ll be okay. Just make sure when she settles down that it’s a place you like to visit.” She made it sound as if had a say in the decision.

Actually, my daughter and son’s chosen locales turned out rather well for my preferences except that I’m still jealous of all my friends whose grandchildren are here or nearby.

My daughter went to the Boston area for college and never came back. Since Beantown was my old stomping grounds, I had no objections when she and Ian chose to put down roots there.

When they eventually left Boston proper and all its sports, dining and cultural offerings, it was for home ownership and child-rearing in Lexington, Massachusetts, a mere 12 miles away. Yes, that Lexington . . . the one always paired with Concord. The town with the Minutemen militia, the Battle Green, and the real-life tale of an old nag carrying a loudmouth silversmith who yelled, “The redcoats are coming, the redcoats are coming” all the way from Boston. Yeah, that Paul Revere.

Each spring the re-enactors of that Redcoat/Minuteman kerfuffle take over the village green, including the arrival of Old Paul on his steed, surrounded by legions of muzzle-loaders. Visitors to the action jam the streets lined with homes from the 1600s and 1700s. The biggest difference in the present day battle re-enactment is that communications are handled by cell phone.

And, yes, I do like to visit Lexington – what has become my grandchildren’s hometown.

I love the architecture, the ambiance, the history. My only complaint would be that Lexington’s latitude is 42.4473 North. With Warren’s latitude being 41.8143 North, it’s understandable that my routine January trip (via Buffalo) can’t escape the same annual blizzards, blustery winds and snow banks, just like home.

Following his sister’s footsteps, my son went off to his heart’s desire, Annapolis, and also never came back.

He did, however, make a few more stops between leaving Warren and finally settling back into Annapolis three years ago. I think I can take a stab at the places he lived long enough to have a mailing address and often a lease or deed. Let’s see, there was Quantico, Virginia, then Pensacola, Florida, followed by Southern California, coastal North Carolina, Kuwait, Iraq, Washington, D.C., London, New York City, Hoboken, New Jersey, and back to Annapolis. One mailing address was for the extended time he was aboard a ship floating atop the Atlantic. There were two or three addresses in North Carolina but none of them had the history, good weather, and amenities combination that he has embraced in Annapolis.

I have only happy memories of all the family visits to Annapolis during the four years that Bart saluted and crammed his way through the Naval Academy. If you’re not an overburdened midshipman, any day in Annapolis is a good day. So much to see, shop, explore and eat as well as the experience of being surrounded by the period architecture and charming narrow streets . . . up close and personal. The downtown area of the state capitol – once the nation’s capital – is walkably small. The Academy itself boasts beautiful vistas, historical museums, and John Paul Jones’s bones. Every spring the grounds brighten with thousands of stunning red tulips.

Next door to the sprawling academy is St. John’s College, the third oldest in the country after Harvard and William and Mary. Tiny St. John’s is an unlikely counterpart to the Navy’s bastion of 30 intercollegiate teams. St John’s, with only one-tenth the student body, competes in four gentleman-type sports – crew, sailing, fencing and croquet. Although the academy doesn’t officially field a croquet team, they do play St. John’s every spring at the annual lawn contest for the Annapolis Cup. The competition, both serious and all in fun, sports costumes, gentility, and yearlong bragging rights. “The Johnnies” have won 30 of the 37 annual matches against their big, boisterous neighbors – including last week’s sold-out festivities in front of over 5,000 ticketed attendees and 3,000 students. I’m going to have to add that to my bucket list.

And of course, the Annapolis street scene is always bustling, not just with tourists and midshipmen but with boat traffic at the City Dock, the center of the downtown. The surrounding restaurant scene spills into the street half the year, mixing with strolling visitors devouring ice cream cones. Bart lives a block from the dock, an ultra-convenient location for his morning waterboarding as well as his thrice-daily dog walking.

But it’s that same dock that gives me heart tugs every time I wander across its wooden deck. Although I know the wood has been replaced over the years, I stop and think that it’s the same type of planking that Kunta Kinte stood on, fresh from his slave ship crossing, as he was being sold to the highest bidder. It gets me every time. Nearby there is now a statue grouping of Alex Haley, a descendant of Kunta Kinte and author of “Roots” with a tribute to his ancestor. I like the fact that among the dock, the statehouse, the schools, and the residences there is enough history to appreciate on-foot . . . perhaps even to make the ice cream lickers pause and reflect.

Yes, I have been lucky. Both my children have chosen delightful places to call home, but our entire family’s orientation toward history enhances our choices as extra added attractions on family visits.

Like many young families, we took vacations aimed at history – Washington, Gettysburg, Antietam, Harper’s Ferry, etc. Annapolis opened my son’s eyes to his future the summer he was 8 and I think the annual treks to Boston somehow stuck a bit with my daughter.

And I guess their personal history, formed here, nurtured here, is also part of the tug back home to Warren.

It’s not just family and friendships. It’s also pride in the traditions of their hometown, its mentors, its kindnesses, and memories of a practically perfect childhood as a son, a daughter, of Warren.

Everyone has their own roots to cherish, to call home. Some of us really lucky adventurers are allowed more than one.

Marcy O’Brien writes from her home in Glade Township. A member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, she can be reached at Moby.32@hotmail.com.


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