Last summer, a friend of mine who was about to leave for college told me that he couldn’t wait to escape the suburbs — specifically, our hometown, Burlingame. He’d grown to detest the manicured lawns and the clean sidewalks, and he couldn’t wait to get a taste of the “real world.” When I asked him why he’d developed this resentment for the site of his upbringing, he told me that I’d understand next year, when I would be more than ready to leave home as well. It’s now a year later and I’m in the very position that my friend was in back then, but am still without the negative sentiments toward the place in which I spent my childhood. Instead, I find myself noticing more and more about my hometown each day, and am beginning to think it is far more intriguing than its reputation as a typical suburb lets on.
Like many places, Burlingame’s inhabitants make it noteworthy. It doesn’t have the grandeur of a big city or even the scenic beauty of a rural town, but its local celebrities create stories of their own. There’s a homeless woman who can often be found standing in front of Café Piccolo on Broadway early in the morning. If you make eye contact with her, she’ll probably tell you the abridged history of feminism or will offhandedly give you a piece of wisdom like “the beginning of peace is saying please and thank you in words that everyone can understand.” She might not remember you the next time you cross paths (even if you spent a good 20 minutes speaking with her the day before), but her stories and facts stay consistent no matter how many times she relays them. This woman is only one of many notable figures of Burlingame. There’s a grandfatherly man who walks along El Camino near Hillside Drive with a parrot perched on his right shoulder and a bear-like dog trotting at his feet. Although I’ve only ever exchanged brief greetings with him, there’s a certain comfort that comes with seeing the stranger forge his usual path around my neighborhood each evening.
Aside from the people of Burlingame, there are certain traditions, whether organized or not, that make the town so endearing. Most Burlingame children attend the tree lighting ceremony or even walk in the holiday parade as a Girl Scout or with their AYSO team at least once in their lives. The parade begins on Burlingame Avenue, a street that serves as a second home for Burlingame inhabitants in their teenage years. As one walks down the avenue as a middle or high school student, it’s nearly impossible to get to the end of the first block without encountering an acquaintance or friend. Familiar faces can also usually be found clad in orange and black at the Caltrain station an hour or so before the San Francisco Giants play a home game or can be spotted dining in the outdoor seating of Crepevine.
When I pointed out these customs and archetypes of Burlingame to the aforementioned friend, he argued that these are not extraordinary, but typical of suburbs across the country. While this may be true and my nostalgia may be getting the best of me, as I (along with all the other recent high school graduates) get ready to leave for college, I can’t see any harm in some hometown pride.
Chloee Weiner is a recent graduate of Crystal Springs Uplands School. Student News appears in the weekend edition. You can email Student News at firstname.lastname@example.org.