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Upstate & Downtown This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     Groton, New York: Population 1,000 (including the cows, of course). A small - or rather tiny - community, consisting of only six families all related to each other. It is a place no one has ever heard of unless they live nearby, and is a place I never would have known if it weren’t the town my father calls home.

Boston, Massachusetts: Population over half a million people (no cows). A city full of many families, races and religions, and one that can easily be found on all maps of the United States. It’s a place known throughout the country, and the place my mother has spent her entire life.

Like my mother, I too have lived my entire life only minutes from the city. I can’t remember a time I wasn’t able to jump on the boat and go over to explore the lively streets. My favorite activity as a kid was to spend the day in fancy hotels and boutiques acting like a movie star.

Naturally, I am not 100 percent city. I have two aunts, four cousins and my gram in good old upstate New York, a place famous for ... well ... um ... I’ll get back to you on that. It’s safe to say that Groton is not as lively as Boston (the nearest mall is 30 minutes away).

When I was seven years old, my father and I were driving to his hometown when he told me he would take me to Groton City. I remember being overwhelmed with happiness as memories of dressing up in fancy clothes on Newbury Street and lounging in the lobby of the Ritz Carlton came flooding back. My fantasies were squashed like a bug with a sign - a crooked, dirty old sign that read “Groton City.” My excitement was dampened as I looked around, tears flooding my eyes, desperately searching for a skyscraper, or any structure at all. It was no use, there was nothing. No shops, no hotels, not even any homeless people!

“What kind of a city is this, Dad?” I yelled, through tears. “Was there a fire or something?” He told me he didn’t know why they called it a city (there was never anything built there), but thought it would be funny to show me anyway. I wasn’t laughing.

Everything is different in Groton - the houses, the people and especially the food. When someone hits a deer in the road, they don’t call the highway department. Instead, they strap it to their roof and speed home to cook it for supper, and then call the highway department and the rest of the town to join in the feast! The people there (my family included) are much more realistic about life. They think it is a waste to dream about getting rich or being successful. Unlike my mom’s side, they are not exposed to a lot of opportunities. Therefore, I have to become a different version of me when I visit. I rarely talk about school, my accomplishments or my goals because I will be labeled “conceited” or “naive.” I force myself to eat road kill because if I refuse, I am “high maintenance.” I have learned to adapt to these conditions to keep my visits happy and label free.

Although I have learned to accept my family in New York, some of my family in Boston have not. Over the years I have learned it is absolutely necessary to keep my two worlds from meeting. Once I made the mistake of bringing Bostonian Nana with me to NY for a week ... bad idea! Take two completely different women in their 60s, add Bambi and me, and multiply all that by a large bottle of wine and what do you get? You get home two days early, that’s what!

I don’t want it to seem like I don’t love my family in New York, because I do. Honestly, I have learned a lot from them. As a result of my visits, I have learned to be more accepting of different lifestyles. Most importantly, I have learned to accept and conform to my different worlds, and have even taught myself to fit into both as best I can. So even though I dread the thought of eating Bambi’s brother, I remind myself that they are part of my family, and take one for the team.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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