It is contrary to the popular belief people have about American cities. Not a fairly famous place when you think of the United States, but now famous to me for the rest of my life. With only between 24000 and 25000 people inhabiting this tiny community (it is indeed a community to me because where I come from, 7 million people live in my city), it has been abundant.
I vividly remember entering the town for the first time and feeling baffled because it was all too tiny to me. It made me question what my whole exchange year was going to be like. I was driven down streets that just ended, so soon. I was new to learning street names instead of a name that encompassed a certain area of town. It was weird but surprisingly not too challenging. And as I got used it, I wanted to be able to memorize every nook and corner because I wanted to wholeheartedly immerse myself in a place that was going to be home to me.
And soon after, when I took bike rides around my neighborhood or went to the same Culver’s (an improved McDonald’s) every week or even just sat in the car while my sister drove me to school every day, those streets found a way into my everyday existence and my spirit.
And every tree, or every house, or every park I passed by every day, became vital to me. I liked to watch the bright orange leaves fall to the ground in the crisp autumn air in people’s yards. I liked to observe my own footprints in the snow while I walked into school every morning. The changing times of sunsets were always a fun conversation for me and my host mom. And on some nights, when I was just being driven from other cities into Watertown by my friends, I liked to take in the yellow streetlights and shadows in the silence of the night.
It is all so small yet nothing less than enormous to me. Maybe because so many of my memories are deeply rooted in different parts of the city. I discovered my love for tennis while lying around in the grass next to the tennis courts with girls from my team as we all stared up at the sun and shared skittles and life stories. I learned how to appreciate the cold just by looking over the street from my house’s deck. I got used to stores and which items they sold where and always felt at ease. The Culver’s menu was retained in my mind. I found a home in a subdivision where I spent most of my days crying, sharing and being part of a new family. And I felt like my favourite street showed me something new every single time I went there.
So when I look back and remember cruising through the city, I remember feeling like it was a part of me. No matter how small or how boring every teenager said it was, I felt like the grass and the air called out to me and said “Welcome home, you have found your place here”.