Hurricane Irene hit my hometown of Ludlow, Vermont yesterday very hard. Infact, Good Morning America showed pictures of our main street, completely flooded and many roads and bridges in town were washed away. It’s hard to know what to do to help being 3,000 miles away but my thoughts have been with all the old high school friends who still live in town. My immediate family is all safe having moved north to Burlington,Vermont some years ago.
I have been reflecting on growing up in Ludlow all day. I moved to Ludlow, Vermont in 1979 at the beginning of 7th grade. I attended junior high and high school in Ludlow and always felt unique when I could say my graduating class had 36 kids. Ludlow had one stop light and the population at the time I moved there was 2,000 people. It is a ski resort town at the bottom of Okemo mountain. Whenever anyone asks me where I am from in Vermont, Okemo is often the reference point. Each winter the town swelled with “flat landers” visiting from Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and other surrounding states.
There were so many unique things about growing up in a small, rural town. For one, we didn’t lock our doors at night. Attending such a small junior high and high school meant I could participate in many extra curricular activities like band, choir, soccer, Jr. Miss and year book. In bigger schools, these things might be more exclusive but in small rural towns you need all the bodies you can get to run various afterschool curriculum so everyone was invited.
Each Wednesday for ten weeks during the winter we had a choice to stay in study hall all afternoon or go skiing at Okemo. Friends from other places could never believe how lucky that was. When I got to high school and joined a Jewish youth group located mostly in upstate New York, many of my new friends would sent me snail mail. Once a friend from camp doubted that everyone in town really knew each other and addressed a letter to me:
zip code: 05149
He was from Miami, and I did get that letter!
While Ludlow didn’t have a mall or a movie theatre (the one in town was closed many of the years I lived there), I participated in bake sales and barn sales and saw the booster club volunteering their time to help us raise money for our school activities. I learned about growing fruits and vegetables, making home made maple syrup, raising livestock for food and that neighbors help one another.
I grew nostalgic for my home town after my father died and I worked on my mitzvah project and I often thought that the mitzvah project allowed me to live out the golden rule each day, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Now that a hurricane has hit Ludlow, I am unsure what to do to help though I did find a website that is keeping information on how we can help and they are updating it when they learn of additional needs. I have been in touch with old high school friends who still live in town to see what they might need. No matter how long we’ve been gone from our childhood hometowns, they still hold a strong reminder of where we come from and many of the memories we come back to throughout our life.
As I figure out how I might be able to help, I will continue to think about my years in Ludlow and keep positive thoughts for everyone repairing and rebuilding.
Please share any ideas you might have for helping others in a similar situation.