What Defines a Home?
Imagine the quirkiness of the lands that Dr. Seuss depicted in his picture books. Aside from the off-the-wall colors of the environment and the inhabitants, there are swirling streets, incredibly steep slopes and hills, and very unique and incoherent infrastructure. Not too much unlike the Dr. Seuss books, the people are all drastically different, and for a relatively small town, there is a great amount of ethnic, social, and economic diversity. In Jamestown, New York, the scenery ranges from poverty stricken areas with clusters of broken down and condemned houses, to upper middle class, “normal,” suburban-looking areas. And in some places in Jamestown, these drastically different types of houses and the people that live in them actually happen to be neighbors. The town looks like it may have been designed by someone who started without a plan. The streets are not at all straight; some streets magically turn into a different street at the next block. Some streets curve around others. In Jamestown, it is absolutely impossible to walk anywhere without difficult treks up steep hills, and it is also impossible to drive anywhere without getting a slight case of whip-lash from constantly hitting potholes on its half-paved, half-brick roads.
Jamestown is somewhat of a ghost town. It used to be a booming factory town, famous for its furniture production. It has a lot of old mansions, but most of them have been converted to apartments and businesses. Now, Jamestown is far from a glamorous place, the air is thick and muggy, and most of its characterizing infrastructure, like bridges and most of the buildings downtown, is about a century old, and either broken down or abandoned. However, this imperfection is one of the characteristics that make Jamestown one-of-a-kind.
This awkwardness is one of the reasons that I consider Jamestown to be home, even though I wasn’t actually born there. The pull of family drew my mother and her young child from Seattle back to New York. It was my mother’s early-adulthood angst to get away from Jamestown, and her family ties that pulled her back in that leaves me with an imbedded connection to it. I lived most of my life, formed most of my relationships, and created most of my memories in Jamestown. Despite its ugliness on the surface, Christmas is one of the times of year that it actually looks beautiful and “home-like.” The blanket that envelopes the entire town in pure, silent serenity covers its imperfections. Jamestown’s flaws are apparent, and people point them out and complain about them daily; but it is these very flaws that make it imperfectly perfect.