I’m currently reading the third book in the Beartown series by Fredrick Backman — The Winners. All are set in Sweden, but easily could be any town, could be my town. Perched against my Alexandria Girls Hockey t-shirt (the one I bought this trip at Endless Treasures for $3.00) as I read, it IS my hometown.
Their collective identity is based upon the local hockey club. Some fit in. Some try to fit in. Others don’t fit in at all. All with their own struggles – trying to stay in, trying to get it, trying to figure out why they don’t even see the door.
I played on several teams in school. I liked sports. The activity. But maybe most of all, I wanted to wear the red and black. Not to stand out, but to blend into the sea of the town’s colors. To be accepted. Buoyed. To be identified as part of the team.
Because every town needs to label you with something… I could hear it, we all could hear it – whispers of divorce, trouble, “broken” — and I suppose that’s the one that disturbed me the most – this broken. How dare anyone decide how your home is standing. My home wasn’t broken. It changed, of course, but it stood, and I, we, deserved to wear the colors. So I put them on for volleyball, for basketball, for track. I wore them, fragile, scared, and hopeful. Hopeful that one day, I could call this, not just my home, but my hometown, all of it.
Wearing my Cardinal t-shirt in the south of France, that day has come. Not because “they” chose, but because I did. I claim the streets, paved and graveled. The houses grand and small. The neighbors on porches, waving from car windows. All trying their best, sometimes failing, sometimes winning, bobbing up and down in lakes of red and black. I remember everything. And while the struggles were often real, the treasures are indeed endless.