Tuesday, October 28, 2014

10 years in York County: Pass that hog maw awhile

There was this really great moment in "Parenthood" last week

Crosby (Dax Shepherd) has just seen the father he idolizes (Zeek, played by Craig T. Nelson), almost collapse on a treadmill during physical therapy following a recent heart surgery.

The pair are sitting at a bar is reminiscing about a childhood camping trip when Crosby starts opening up about his struggles -- the business he runs with his brother isn't bringing in enough money, he feels as if he's stuck under his wife's thumb and suffocated by the constant demands of his young son. The expression on Zeek's wrinkled, weary face is one of total understanding. 

He implores his son to try to enjoy his family. To have fun. "It just goes by so fast."

And the camera holds on to them both, their eyes a bit glassy, as Crosby comes to terms with the mortality of his titan of a father and Zeek realizes the circle of his life seems to be closing before he's ready.

I thought about this scene today. 

As of October 18ish, I have lived in York, Pa. for 10 years (or as Brad likes to gleefully point out, "almost a third of your life!") Anniversaries like these seem both inconsequential and monumental all at once. On the one hand 10 years isn't all that long in the grand scheme of a life or a universe. But I think in this case, with all that has happened in these particular 10 years, it feels enormous. I wonder how I squeezed so much in to such a short span. And how it feels like both a lifetime and a minute ago.

Ten years ago, after a whirlwind summer that featured a post-graduation week in Paris, copy editing bootcamp in San Jose, Calif. and a summer internship in Duluth, Minn., I took a job as a news copy editor at the York Daily Record (no, that's not the New York Daily Record, as I've had to tell plenty of disappointed people over the years). 

As it turns out, York doesn't have a whole lot in common with New York. Except for the York thing. And the stint as the nation's capital thing (New York from 1785-1790 and York from 1775-1783 as the temporary capital of the Continental Congress. The Articles of Confederation were also drafted and adopted here. True story.). Oh and New York is called the Big Apple and York is home to plenty of apple orchards … so. That's something.

Where were we? What makes someone who grew up in the suburbs of the actual nation's capital move to a place that's biggest (though much debated) claim to fame is that 230 years ago some guys in wigs happened to be in York when they made the first-ever reference to the "United States of America"? 

Could it that, as mentioned during my job interview multiple times, York is also home to a Harley-Davidson manufacturing plant?

Or, that the band Live originated in York? 

Or that York is just an hour from Baltimore and two hours from Philly and D.C. and three hours from New York?

No, it's because when I came up for my interview I ended up knowing several people in the newsroom from working at my college paper. And then one of those people told me about this farm he lived on. This magical place up a tree-lined lane by a geese-filled pond. Rolling hills speckled with horses. A turkey and a little jack russell terrier named Peetee chasing us up the drive.

Naturally, I invited myself to move in. And then accepted the job offer.

It worked out that I really liked the job and the people I worked with. 

But back then, this move here was only supposed to be temporary. I figured, like every young journalist starting out at a smaller paper, that I'd move on to bigger and better things. Or, anyway, end up back down in Virginia closer to my family.

This plan was only re-enforced by things like the abysmal state of Pa. interstates and York Countians refusal to use "to be" (as in the dishes need washed) and their insistence on adding the word "awhile" unnecessarily (as in, "I'll get you your drinks, awhile.") For years I referred to my state (errr .. commonwealth) of residence as Crapsylvania (state slogan: "We put the 'PA' in crappy"). Yes. I was a snob. And not an especially creative one at that.

At one point, desperate to return to my sisters, I was close to moving back down to Virginia, though even then I wondered about how we would afford to live there. How long I'd be able to put up with the traffic. Anyway, I didn't get the job. And after I received word about that, well, York it was.

See, because what happens is, you stay in a place long enough and you start forming relationships. Memories. You sink your roots. And then it grows on you. And you grow in it.

You meet your future husband. You get engaged on that farm. You get married. Buy a house. Get a dog. You start a family. And you start to think it would be nice for your kids to have ties. To have a home base. A place they can go back to.

You have this romantic notion that they'll remember searching for chipmunks at that one park. 

They'll look forward to climbing through the hay bale castle at that one pumpkin patch…


… picking the perfect Christmas tree at that one tree farm 



… and finding the best spot to sit and watch the St. Patrick's Day Parade. 




You get over the fact that you don't have a Wegman's (and will probably never have a Wegman's) and stop questioning the locals obsession with Bricker's French fries (I mean, seriously though, they're just fries) and their habit of using major roads as cheap entertainment (I'm talking about you, Rt. 30 on street rod weekend). You accept that fact that while you will never, ever enjoy the anvil of lard-fried dough that are fastnachts, food traditions are pretty cool. You look forward to passing the rotating statue of a man in singlet on Rt. 83 and to hearing the weirdest version of "Silent Night" ever thanks to the midnight steam whistle concert on Christmas Eve (although you're not sure it warrants being mentioned under the "culture" entry on York's Wikipedia page).

(But for the record, you will never, ever become fond of the perpetual off-roading that is driving on Pennsylvania highways or the photos of sweet, smiling babies posed next recently "harvested" deer.)

You can't really remember what it was like being a Virginian. It doesn't seem to matter as much about where you grew up. 

You start out this lonely, pretentious 20-something trying to figure out where you fit in in the world with some vision about what your future will look like. And how it should involve these impressive feats and grand stories. And then you realize that your life is already happening and if you just start paying attention, well, that's something worth writing about, too. 

So you make it matter where you are. 

But you still miss your family. Every day. 

You fantasize about your reunions. And the day when hanging out at the dinner table and reminiscing about your childhood is the norm, rather than an exception reserved for holidays and special occasions. You make a mental note to make sure the girls see their cousins again soon. Why haven't they invented beaming technology? Where the hell is Scotty when you need him? 

You start writing in the second person and realize you need to return to first person.

Life is a whirlwind. And all the things won't ever get done.

I don't know if it's getting older or motherhood or or life experience or York, but lately I'm realizing there's not much sense in worrying about all the things anyway. 

It's kind of nice to be in a place that focuses more on the journey than the race. 



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