I was, like, 5 when I first birthed my dream of leaving Westchester. I was walking with my family along Fifth Avenue, looking up at the buildings towering over all the hustle and bustle. “I’m gonna live here one day,” I told my mother.
While that was about 95 percent youthful ignorance (Fifth Avenue? Ah, the kid could dream, if nothing else), the force pushing me out of the county only strengthened over time. I never really felt like I belonged there—even as a bright-eyed child. And the wave carrying me out of Westchester became tidal in high school. While my friends drove their brand-new cars, I schlepped around, towel in hand, in my non-heated jalopy, manually wiping frost from my windshield. When everyone spoke of summers spent on the golf course, I relayed stories of cutting sheet metal and the perils of mixing sweat and insulation. When we drank at the carbon-copied bars with rotating names on Mamaroneck Avenue (you know, the ones overflowing with Affliction T-shirt-wearing bros ordering Heinekens), I yearned to be on city rooftops, quaffing Old Fashioneds.
After a few years away at college, I planned to make my break from “the Bestchester” upon graduation; Brooklyn and all its too-cool-for-school-ness beckoned. But then, in a stroke of irony Alanis Morissette would appreciate, I was hired by Westchester Magazine, so I stayed. At first, given my personal feelings, it was difficult for me to expound upon the wonderfulness the county had to bestow.
But, like the Grinch growing a heart, my curmudgeonliness began to crack. Oh, there’s a world-class brewery amid the industrial wasteland of Elmsford? (I’m looking at you, Captain Lawrence.) Wait, there’s a skyscraper where you can get the best cocktails in New York? (That used to be you, 42. Why’d you close down the swank bar you had?) There’s really a perfect place to read a book on a Sunday afternoon? (Yeah, you’re not too shabby, Kensico Dam Plaza.)
But, on another level, I started seeing Westchester as more than a place of bro-filled bars and stuffy McMansions. Westchester is my mother, who somehow lived to see three hell-raising children through to adulthood. It is my high school teacher, who first made words jump from the page and instilled in me the magic the written word can elicit. It is the editor who first saw a glimmer of something in me, and decided to nurture that little something into a
(kind-of-still-getting-there) mature something.
And now, 26 years later, as I make my break from the county and into Brooklyn, I know these pieces will forever shape who I am. And while I may never (I know, never say never) again inhabit a dwelling inside the county’s confines, I can finally call Westchester (well, upstate, as I refer to it now) “home.”
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