Growing up I always felt at home in my small town of Marlborough, CT. It was quaint in town, a grocery store, a bakery, a couple of pizza places, a Seven 11, and a full service gas station. It was small, it was quiet and it was home. There’s a lake in Marlborough where I learned how to swim and a playground where people had play dates with their kids. It’s peaceful and clean and everyone is nice. Everyone knows everyone. The ladies at the bank greet you by your first name, and entering the town hall is like a reunion. If you needed to pick something up at 7/11 or Pat’s Market you were sure to see at least 2 people you knew personally, or who knew your family.
It was a great asset to be in a town with good schools, low crime rate, low poverty rate and genuinely good people. Elementary school was filled with activities and the classes were maybe 20 kids each, 4-5 classrooms and you had to take a bus to get to school. No one walked, it’s too rural. The people you started kindergarden with, were with you until the end of high school.
In middle and high school Marlborough joined two other towns in a regional forum school in Hebron. The purpose obviously was because the towns didn’t have the volume of kids to support individual high schools, (shared costs). It was also nice to meet new people.
Once in middle school and high school all the activities and small town vibes expand to the tri-towns. People have to travel 30 minutes from one town to the next to visit their friends, and a vehicle was always required.
I don’t know exactly why it changed so much in high school, but all of a sudden drugs became prevalent. Anything from cocain to LSD was available and in high demand. It was strange to see how many people were doing drugs. The football team, the cheerleaders, the geeks and the weirdos all. Maybe that’s why everyone got along so, seemingly well. There were never fights on school grounds. The worst thing was someone getting caught with illegal paraphernalia or drugs/ alcohol. The cliques all threw massive parties.
The high school parties shown on tv were real in my high school. We had dj’s, booze and hundreds of people would show up from high school classes 4 plus or minus classes to get wild. There was mud wrestling and jello wrestling and one or two parties included a prize for the best costumes. There were beer pong tournaments, dance parties, people hooking up and the cops always showing up to tell us to keep it down. It was reckless and free. It was awesome. The parties would be wild and the drugs were everywhere. It was funny, after looking back, other towns didn’t do that.
One of my best friends died, we had a friend- fall out before that. She was a tough person to get along with and she sold drugs. She smoked blunts and thought her body was just like a man’s. She thought she could do anything without punishment because she was smart. She wasn’t smart, when she started taking pain killers. Then she started snorting them. Then a year after our fall out I heard she died. I heard it was heroin but I still don’t know. She was smart, funny, and kind. She always rooted for the underdog. She loved fiercely and she was beautiful. She had long blonde hair, and green eyes. She drove me to school. She drove me crazy sometimes. She had a scholarship to Uconn’s Avery point, and she was so bright. Her family was smart, and she played the violin. She’s gone now, but she was a beautiful soul.
I had a love. Oh did I love him, he was my first love. He had red hair, and blue eyes, he was so smart and kind. The good news is that this story doesn’t end as tragically as the last. My boyfriend in high school, was shot in the face with a bee bee gun, at a party. The kid who did it, didn’t know it was loaded. He was blinded in one eye from the stupid kid who shot him. The doctors gave him vicotin, then he moved up to Percocet, then oxicotin and yes next came the heroin.After high school he went to rehab, but not many people followed him. Many many people went down the same path… His best friends, and the whole circle around us.
It was at least one death a year, each time, a high school reunion.
When I moved to college I came home on weekends and nothing looked beautiful and like home anymore. It looked tainted and sad. People didn’t know eachother anymore, they hid in their addiction ridden holes and if you heard from them it meant they needed something. People still had parties and I attended a lot of them. People still did drugs even after high school and college, these guys owned homes now and had good jobs and yet still couldn’t stop. Some of them did. Those went out to have normal families, kids, and stopped. The rest of them, in AA, or onto their next addiction.
More people died.
Overdoses, car accidents and not one for a good reason.
Each wake and funeral people rallied for their friends, for the people they knew, for eachother. It was a beautiful reunion and never for a good reason. It is always at these funerals that people look back fondly on the departed and reminisce on how things were.
It isn’t that the towns fell apart, it’s that the people who started with drugs who let the drugs take over, stayed. They led the same life they did in high school 10-15 years later doing the same drugs and hanging out with the same people. They went to the same gas station, and had the same circle of friends. Everyone else moved on. People in high school went on to leave the towns some stayed in CT some moved close some moved far. Everyone took with them the same good times, different memories but always the same gratitude and love for the place they came from.
There aren’t many people I know who grew up in the RHAM community who don’t respect and honor their days in the tri-town area. I don’t know anyone who had a “bad” high school experience, there were cliques but people were generally nice to each other. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t lost someone, from this place we all call home. I know some have lost a friends due to suicide, others overdoses and some car accidents. Each tragic event built something inside of us all that is resilient and unified. We all know what it is to lose someone.
The pro is that people of RHAM had some of the best and most memorable days partying, going to games, skipping class, being young and careless. The con is that while we aren’t in high school any longer RHAM never leaves us. We are the class of 2007 and we all plus or minus 4 classes love and support eachother in life and in death.
The life we have had together is home. I can’t say with any certainty that it was a good experience but I know it wasn’t bad. In these towns I learned more about life than anywhere else. I still go home to my home town of Marlborough and now it feels better. It feels like home again. I see people in town and we chit chat. It’s as if nothing has changed, and everything, at once.
The pro of the small towns is devotion, to the place you call home, and to those who spent years by your side, even if you weren’t close. It is a lesson on how to deal with the unexpected loss that life throws at us. It’s being a part of a whole. A small town is not the same as a city but you know if you leave you will see things change. Yet, they will always be the same.
To those wonderful people we lost:
To name a few…
We have known you well and loved you. We are united in spirit, the small town and community of RHAM. Together we rally for eachother and I can only hope that this terrible disease of addiction stops, so that people can stop gathering for funerals and start gathering for reunions.
Addiction has touched the lives of so many, if you or someone you know is struggling don’t feel like you’re alone. Call someone, they probably already know, and want to help!