Ask Whitties for their hometown stories

Sam Jacobson

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Illustration by Tyle Schuh.

I want your memories. From the raw, to the beautiful, to those so blurred and indistinct that they might as well have been imagined. According to the Whitman College website’s “fast facts,” Whitman is composed of 1,541 students coming from 42 states, two U.S territories and 25 countries. That’s not counting the professors, staff and administrators, who, in addition to the students, come to make up this celebrated campus.

So I ask you: How well do you know the places that people come from? For me, the answer is not much. In truth, there’s no place like home, and I want to hear about yours. It’s a common first-year question –– “Where are you from?” –– but I want you to really take me there, by way of roads and streets that you know so well that you could drive them blindfolded.

I want to know your favorite memory of home, and your least favorite. The reason why you can’t wait to go back or why you are staying away for a while. Describe the way the light strikes your windowsill in the morning and the place where you sat to pull off all-nighters in high school.

I want to know about what your family eats on a typical Sunday night. The way your neighbor’s mailbox might stand, slightly crooked, too obvious not to be noticed, but too trivial to ever be fixed.

I want to hear about your first bike ride and your favorite time eating ice cream. I want to hear about your worst time eating ice cream. Where would you take me on a date? What was your best Halloween costume? Where’s the best spot to view the sunrise in your town? What makes your hometown special and important to you?

There are more people like me than it seems. So don’t be afraid to share where you are from. Invite peoples’ memories into your home and take them for a tour of yours. Help spark more connections, conversations and understanding within our Whitman community.

To prove I’m serious, I wanted to give a brief snapshot of where home is to me. I am from the small town of Southwest Harbor, Maine. It is a place of fog, lobster boats and seagulls. A relatively obscure town on the coast, Southwest Harbor’s primary claim to fame is its neighbors, Bar Harbor and the USA Today top-ranked Acadia National Park. The rugged Maine coastline is a place unto itself. Here the air is never stagnant, and the ocean is scarcely calm for long. The weather is variable, but I like fall the best. Fall is when the leaves show off, and apples, squash and pumpkins abound; it boasts cool nights, frost, sunlit days and air so crisp that it crackles with clarity. It’s a time of Friday night football games, huddled with friends on the high school bleachers as you listen to the band play and burn your tongue on overpriced hot chocolate, never paying attention to the final score of the game.

The main road through town is marred by the never-ending conflict between potholes and construction workers. Where I am from it is tough to get lost, even as a tourist, but somehow I manage to do so frequently. The year-round population is 2,000, but in the summer, there are at least three times that many.

Despite the number of people who visit, Southwest Harbor seems trapped in time, predictable, like the tide. It is all at once claustrophobic and comforting. The lady at the drug store always seems to know your name, but you can never remember hers. The auto mechanic up the hill, who can fix any car problem, has also served on the town board of selectmen. The sandwich shop downtown next to the post office changes names and hands every two years.

People age, kids go off to school, but on the grand scale Southwest Harbor stays the same. It is what I like the most and the least about my hometown: When I’m there, memories take place in the present.