I love my hometown. I miss it often during the year, although I am surrounded by other fantastic elements here, like frequent sunshine. But my hometown seems special to me not merely because of the litany of memory attached to where I grew up, but because of what we learned along the way.
I remain connected to a great deal of people I grew up with, although we have lost a few friends along the way. I love seeing the evolution of people I have known for decades. And I love knowing high school sweethearts still together. And seeing pictures of boys I knew who were big, strapping athletes back in the day who are now fathers. I sometimes laugh and think, oh, I remember your Dad at ____'s party our junior year. Oh, do I know a crazy story about him. And then I realize, Uh oh, I was at that same party. Better keep those shenanigans quiet. I love seeing these same boys toting tiny girls dressed in fairy costumes on Halloween. I love seeing girlfriends of ours that were wonderful, beautiful girls back then living as wonderful, beautiful women now. Not because in either scenario I didn't think these boys or girls had it in them, but because I knew they had it in them.
And when I go home, and we get together, the night is punctuated by laughter and updates, and recollection of silly things we did (like the constant TP'ing of houses...sorry Erik, did I ever admit to you that it was us?) or how I pranced around all hotsy totsy style when I got my first Cat Eye Vuarnet sunglasses. Whoa those were giant sunglasses but bless my tiny heart for trying.
Not everyone remains and clearly I moved to the opposite coast but quite a contingency still resides there. One of my oldest and closest friends moved back and I love seeing her daughters now wearing the same letterman jackets we wore. And her daughters go to school, and go to dances with children of other people we grew up with. And the water must be enhanced because people look great. And they are happy.
But perhaps the greatness of my hometown is the power and importance of community. Growing up there, I felt like we were given everything we needed to succeed. And that any endeavor we envisioned was possible. Our teachers, our neighbors, and our friends' parents were interested in us, and seeing us achieve.
So when I saw this in the news, and one of those wonderful women I grew up with then sent me the video, that has already had over 2 million hits on YouTube, it seemed truly representative of our hometown.
Several weeks ago, during a high-school football game in Snohomish, WA., the hometown Snohomish Panthers avoided a shutout in inspirational fashion as Junior Ike Ditzenberger scored on a 51-yard touchdown run after entering the game for the first time with just 10 seconds remaining.
I love sports, sports stories, and feel good moments. Running a 51-yard touchdown in on your first step on the field is a classic feel good moment for any player. The fact Ike has Down Syndrome doesn't get in the way of his plans.
I smiled as I watched the video of the TD run because the camaraderie was palpable. And because I know that as a parent, the minute your child is born, you want to think they will be exposed to endless opportunities. And possibilities. Special needs kids do not need pity, or sad faces. They need a place to suit up, participate, and an opportunity to shine.
And with the alarming rates of childhood disorders including Autism, our communities need to work together to create more opportunities so special needs kids, in all applicable cases, can be a part of mainstream education. And have access to great possibilities.