My True Hometown – M. Gyles

Names have been changed for privacy reasons.

My life began on July 5, 2001, in Etobicoke, Ontario. I lived in Kleinburg until I was 7, and it was only the first in the long list of places I would find myself living over the next couple of years. I lived in Schomberg until I was 9, Scarborough until I was 10, Friendswood, Texas until I was 11. Then, in the middle of 2012, I moved back to Canada, to an unknown town by the name of Orangeville. As of October 2018, I have lived in this town for 6 years, and it has now become my second longest place of residence. I’ve lived out a significant portion of my life here, and as I begin my final year of high school in this town, I’m beginning to reflect on my memories and time here.

What’s my opinion on this town I’ve lived in for 6 years? I’ve met a lot of people, visited a lot of places, attended many of the events organized by the town, and as my time here concludes, I can confirm that I hate Orangeville. That’s not to say I haven’t had any good times in Orangeville, because I have. But it’s the fact that the very few good memories I have were made in. . . Orangeville. Maybe I’d like this town better if most of my experiences here were positive, but unfortunately, most of my prominent memories here are negative and have tainted my view of this town.  I could tell you about my mother’s car crash, or the man that made my life a living hell for 3 years, but I’d much rather tell you a story about my first day at Princess Elizabeth Public School.  

I’ve lost specific memories from my time in elementary school, but no new kid ever forgets their first day. I remember walking to school with my mom, nervous as to what I was going to get from my new school. Were the people going to be nice? Was the work going to be hard? What if I got lost in the school? My mind was swarming with questions as I walked towards this unknown place. I was excited and nervous for my first day. There was something about the mystery of a new year, area, and people that made my stomach jump and bounce. We walked to the front office, gave my name, and waited in the library as people began to roll into the school. I felt like I had been sitting there for hours. The anticipation was killing me, I couldn’t sit still. I watched silently as other new students were given a classroom and escorted out of the library. Only a single bell had gone off as we were sitting there, and I could only assume it was the final bell, indicating that classes were starting. We had already been sitting in this unknown place for 20 minutes, and we continued to wait for 10 more after that bell went off. Finally, a woman from the front office comes up to us. She was looking down at a white sheet of paper, her brow furrowed and her face confused. “So, it seems that you haven’t been put into a class yet.” I didn’t even know how to react. This school has known about my enrollment for a month, and they weren’t able to put me into a classroom in that time? Only being 11-years-old, I let my mother speak for me.

“How could she not be in a class? Is she just not enrolled in the school?”

“No, she’s in our system, it just seems that she was never put in a class.”

I wanted to cry, but I knew that was only going to make me feel worse, so I held it in, as my mom and this woman spoke.

“Classes have already started, so, for now, we’ll just put her into Edward’s class, across the hall.” Oh great. Now I was going to be walking into class late. What a great first impression. We thanked her for her help, I hugged my mom and headed across the hall. I remember I didn’t knock on the door, but rather slowly opened it until I was in full view of my classmates. My heart dropped and a feeling of nausea washed over me as 25 pairs of eyes turned to stare at me. Ms. Edwards had stopped talking and was staring at me as well, an annoyed look on her face. I can still feel the burning of my face as everyone continued to stare. I was absolutely mortified, and I remember my brain saying ‘Oh my god, say something. They’re staring at you. SAY SOMETHING.’ I could hardly register any words. I tried to ignore the students judging eyes as I turned and spoke to the teacher. “Hi, I’m Melissa, I think I’m supposed to be in this class. . .” My teacher’s annoyed face instantly lifted into a smile. “Hi, Melissa! I’m happy you’re joining us. Just take a seat wherever you’d like.” I could barely get any words out, so I merely nodded and sat in the first open seat I saw. There were about four rows of seats set up, and I was sitting on the end, next to two girls who smiled at me as I sat down. When our teacher was done speaking, the one closest to me turned to me and introduced herself as ‘Allie’. I remember my eyes widening, and before it could stop, I said “oh my god, your name is Allie? My middle name is Allie!”

“No way, really!? Well, clearly we were meant to be friends!”  

We both laughed at this. And now, six years later, she’s still one of my closest friends and is among my list of people that I’m going to miss when we graduate.

On my first day 6 years ago, I never thought that I would be calling Orangeville my home, but  I have called every single town I’ve lived in ‘home’ at one point. Even Scarborough and Friendswood, towns I lived in for less than a year, were both my homes at one point. Recently I’ve begun to question which one of my homes is truly my hometown. I have to ask myself, what qualifies as a hometown to me? The definition of a hometown is where one was born, where one grew up, or where one has lived the longest. It’s hard to figure out which place is your hometown when multiple of those places fit that criterion. For a while, I’ve been calling Schomberg my hometown. It was the place where I met my first best friend, lived in my nicest house, and was constantly happy with my current life and situation. I stopped in Schomberg about a month ago, stopping at the old Foodland where my mother and I used to shop for groceries about 8 years ago. It was the first time I’ve stepped foot in the store since I was 9. We had stopped by for cat food and red bull, and as we were checking out of the store, I began to question if this was where I’d be working had we stayed here, as the girl checking us out was close to my age. As my mom was searching for her debit card, she looked over at me and smiled. One of those knowing smiles that says ‘I know you, and I’m acknowledging that I know you, but I don’t know you well enough the say anything.’ Her name was Megan, and I didn’t recognize her. Out of the 35 people who were in my classes in grades 2 and 3, I remember exactly 7 of them. Jessica, Ethan, William, the two Taylor’s, Cordelia, and my best friend, Katie. I almost wanted to ask if she’d gone to Schomberg Public School, but I thought it’d be a dumb question, considering it was the only public school in the whole town. But really, she probably only smiled to be polite. Maybe she recognized the annoyed look I was giving my mother as she frantically searched for her debit card, and was only smiling because she could relate. On the odd occasion I do stop in Schomberg, I always wonder if maybe I’ll run into one of those seven people I knew. If I did know this Megan, obviously I wouldn’t recognize her, since we’ve grown since being in grade 3. Even if I were to run into those people I knew for a moment 9 years ago, there’s no way I’d recognize them now. I hardly recognize anything within the town. The people, the streets, the library, it’s all a mystery to me. So sure, Schomberg was my home at one point, but how come I still call it my hometown?

I’m jealous of people who got to grow up in one place. “But you’re so lucky to have met so many people and seen so many places!” My friends say. “Not many kids get to experience that!” My mom tells me. “Trust me, you wouldn’t have wanted to grow up in Orangeville.” Says, everyone. But does anyone consider maybe I wish I did? Yes, Orangeville is boring, my 6 years of experience has shown me this. But I wish people would understand that I wish I had a home that I recognized because Orangeville is the first town that I fully know. The only recognizable thing in Kleinburg is my old trailer home. Schomberg is so far gone from me that I can only recognize bits and pieces of it. Scarborough was so big, I couldn’t tell you how to get to my school without mapping it. My home, school, and friends were so far apart from each other in Texas, I’d get lost trying to show you. And all those people that I’ve met? All those friends I made? I left them, I’ll never see them again. And it hurt me like hell every time I had to leave them. Every. Single. Time. Everyone around me has friends they grew up with, they have funny memories from when they were kids, and I don’t have that. It’s an understatement to say that I’m jealous. Now, I can laugh about memories from grade 6, 7, and 8 with my friends from my public school, but for years, every time I went to a new school, I had to deal with this feeling of being an outsider. I could never understand the stories about how shitty of a teacher Ms. Felix was, or about that time Ethan fell in the pool at Emma’s birthday party, for years I didn’t have memories that I could share. But yeah, I guess I’m lucky that I met so many people and made so many friends that I’ll never see again.

For the past 3 years, I’ve always told myself and everyone around me that I’m never going to miss Orangeville. Once I was out of here, I promised to never come back for anything other than a high school reunion and to visit my mom. Once I was gone, I never wanted to give this town a single thought. The only time you’d hear the word ‘Orangeville’ leave my mouth was if it was a response to the question, “where are you from?” I know I would’ve hated boring small towns like Kleinburg and Schomberg had I stayed there, but the difference between those places is Orangeville was most of my memories made in those towns were happy. I didn’t live there long enough for too many bad things to happen to me, and now when I revisit or think of those places, a sombre feeling comes over me and I don’t mind reliving memories made there.

I can’t tell you specifically what I’ve learned since moving to Orangeville, but I can tell you that my entire experience here has been a lesson of some sorts. Had I lived anywhere else, I know that I would not be the person I am. I’ve met some of the best people here, and I will miss them. I don’t like Orangeville, and I can’t wait to move onto the next chapter of my life. But I truly believe that after spending six years here that it’s my hometown. It’s no longer just one of my longest place of residence, the place where I spent my teenage years, or the place where I made some of the best and worst memories of my life. It’s also the place that meant the most to me, the place with the most significance and importance, the place that shaped me and turned me into who I am today. This doesn’t stop me from saying that I hate Orangeville. Orangeville sucks. I hate Orangeville. But Orangeville is my hometown, and I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t miss it.

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