Situated on the Quebec/Vermont border, on the shores of Lake Champlain, Rouses Point, N.Y., is a quaint community of around 2,000 residents. Filled with large French and Irish influences, the families here have been around the area for generations. The people push through frigid winters, with temperatures dropping below zero more often than not, and blistering hot summers hitting triple digits. It’s survival mode throughout the year, and folks are generally proud of that mentality.
Born and raised in an old limestone farmhouse on the outskirts of Rouses Point, I had a pretty typical childhood. I’d ride my bike, go swim in the lake or just plain meander around the neighborhood and nearby cornfields until it was too dark and I had to get home. As with most small towns, 4th of July was the biggest event of the year, with its parade, activities and fireworks. As I got older, it became a way of crossing paths with other familiar faces you wouldn’t see for the rest of the year.
Since I graduated from high school, I’ve been on this continuous journey of exploration. Being one of the few from my class who actually left the area, I went to college in Connecticut, lived in Ireland, worked in Idaho, and now reside in the heart of Western North Carolina. I wanted to see everything and meet everyone, hence my pursuit of a career in journalism.
And so, my flight touched down in my homeland. Though all the buildings and streets were familiar, I felt like a stranger. It had been a long time since I’d interacted or traversed any of these places and things, which made the experience dreamlike.
Being a class officer in high school, I got wrangled into organizing the reunion even though I quite possibly lived the furthest away. I picked up my best friend, an artificial cow inseminator, who I hadn’t seen face-to-face in over a year. The reunion was to be held at the local rod and gun club property on the lake. We set up some chairs and tables, filled coolers with ice and cold Labatt Blue beer (which was just as tasty as I remembered). It was all ready, and then we waited.
Slowly, faces I’d only seen in yearbooks over the last decade began to trickle in. Any apprehension of what was to be quickly washed away over a friendly handshake and beer can salute. It was surreal to stand there physically with these good folks, rehashing old “war” stories and getting the low down on how life has been since we strode that stage and received our diploma.
Some of us had kids, some married, some not, some divorced, while others gained a few pounds or finally lost all of that weight. Laughter echoed out onto the lake while the ties that bind became that much stronger. Eventually, we said goodbye and made vague plans for the 20th reunion. We’ll be 38 by then. Jeez, where does the time go? But, such is life, eh?
As my best friend and I cleaned up the club, we had a few more laughs over all the interesting people we reconnected with. We each have wandered down our own paths, and yet we still were all the same. We all started together, and many times tend to forget that as life routines accelerate the years on the ticking clock. I didn’t feel like a stranger anymore, I felt at home, which was a long lost feeling.
1: Soldier’s Heart, Round the Fire, Protective Paranoia and Owner of the Sun tap the stage at BearWaters Brewing Company in Waynesville on July 6.
2: The Cradle of Forestry kicks off its 10th annual “Songcatchers Music Series” with Chicken Train, an old-time string band, on July 7.
3: The New York Times bestselling author Mary Alice Monroe discusses her new book, The Summer Girls, at the Jackson County Library in Sylva on July 6.
4: A “bluegrass duel” between Nitrograss and The Dappled Greys is at the Martin Lipscomb Performing Arts Center in Highlands on July 6.
5: The “4th of July Music Fest” at Nantahala Brewing Company in Bryson City runs through July 5, which features Porch 40, The Jaystorm Project and The Grove Band.