But you can't take the Western New York out of the girl. I arrived in Buffalo (yes, Buffalo is Western New York, not Upstate New York), after a long day of travel with two small kids and it was as if I was instantly converted to another version of myself.
My vowels immediately sounded more nasally. All words with an "o" started sounding like "aah" (for example: instead of hospital, it would be h-aah-spital). I was excited about my PT Cruiser rental. (Sadly, they didn't have one for me, and I ended up with an HHR, which is sort of like a PT Cruiser only it looks more like a pick-up truck.) I happily programmed my rental's radio to have all of the local Top 40 stations for the 30-minute ride to Lockport. After my boys were tucked in, I was ready to tackle the local bar scene. I hoped that I'd see someone I went to high school with. And I drank Yingling, a WNY favorite.
The bar wasn't much to look at, but it was spacious and it was full of faces that I wanted to be familiar. The dance floor wasn't overly crowded, but if it did get too packed, the dancers just back up in between tables and along the bar. The band was working hard and the crowd was the payoff. It wasn't the Cheeseballs, but it was a wonderful, town-I-grew-up-in close second. And I felt comfortable, at home, included, loved. It's no surprise that I managed to meet the band. And during the last set I got at least 15 shout-outs because it was my birthday. And I was with one of my best friends. It was perfect, except that Father in Chief wasn't around to enjoy it with me.
There is something about going home, home to the small town I grew up in that is comforting. I'm sure it has something to do with the fact that my family still lives there. My dad still lives in the house I grew up in. My mom lives in the house that my family lived in when I was born. My grandmother still lives in the same house she has for the past 60 years. My uncle lives in my other grandmother's house. Two of my best friends still live here. Stores come and go, but the shabby downtown keeps trying to reinvent itself with renovated buildings and new bars. Mostly, it's comforting because when I lived here--17 years ago--life was pretty simple. The biggest worries were whether he was going to call and whether I was going to have to work on New Year's Eve.