In the days and months before college, I wondered what life would be like outside of Hewlett, our self-professed "bubble." Were there really people who lived without Dairy Barn coffee and Herschel backpacks? People who never endured the despair of Starbucks vanishing from the Pizza Place shopping center? People who didn't know to "Change at Jamaica for the Train to Far Rockaway" ("...stopping at Locust Manor, Laurelton, Rosedale…")! Please. I was eager to meet the type.
On my second day removed from our bank-riddled streets and settled into dorm-style living, I ventured out to every freshman's most angst-ridden destination: the registrar's office. Unlike most of our graduating class, I waited until the last minute to send my college-level transcripts to the office for scrutiny (and hopefully, acceptance). Wandering about strange and bureaucratic halls of a nondescript building, I was relieved to successfully navigate my way to the door labelled "REGISTRAR." Traversing the threshold, I encountered a bright-eyed woman working the front desk. I haltingly posed the operative question and stood silently as her fingers danced along the desktop keyboard. Would my college-level-courses make the cut? She cheerfully exclaimed that my credits from ADDLE-Fee University had transferred (!). This answer, while good news, left me feeling like I just landed on Mars. Smirking inwardly, I suppressed the urge to tell her "it's Adelphi, lady!"
Weeks later, more accustomed to Muhlenberg College and the Lehigh Valley vicinity of Pennsylvania, I noticed that Five Towns fashion is actually not mainstream. My mostly PINK wardrobe is an outlier amongst the farmer jeans and plane-jane t-shirts of my classmates. Weekends in SoHo have been displaced by outings to apple orchards and amusement parks. Instead of Xaga, it's warehouse eggs and Kraft Mac & Cheese. And, guess what! I love it! This is life outside the bubble!
But that did not keep Hewlett from tugging at the cuff of my jeans. Visiting home, my heart swelled as I crossed the Verrazano Bridge and hit the Belt Parkway. I was excited to see my parents (although perhaps less so than they were to see me). Oh, the nonchalant faces of CVS employees; the familiar streets of Peninsula Boulevard and Mill Road; and even Hewlett High School, which beckoned but did indeed feel smaller.
Yet, my arrival was anticlimactic. I expected to bask in our most hackneyed glory. That was not what happened. But why? Did I change? Did our town change? I soon realized that actually, we both did.
CVS now provides self-check out; the unwieldy Foodtown parking lot has been repaved; and the front entrance of the high school now provides an accessibility ramp (about time). Things changed and I wasn't there. But, I was okay with it.
Driving back to school, I realized my "bubble" had burst. Hewlett didn't stop just because I left. And having left, new horizons abound. Our years together were delightfully disorderly and sometimes, frustratingly formative. But they were my childhood. And for that, no matter where I go, I'll always be proud to call Hewlett home.
A Sentimental College Freshman