Where I grew up has been considered a scary place for a long time. I actually live in Bay Shore, but I went to Brentwood schools from kindergarten until I graduated high school. So I guess I actually live in that little section on the west side called Baywood. Thankfully, I didn’t grow up in that mess considered Fifth Avenue. But I was a good five minute drive away.
If there’s no traffic on Pine Aire Drive, at least.
Where I grew up, everybody knows everybody—even if it is one of the largest towns on Long Island. People who went to school in Brentwood in the ‘80s had kids together, and now their kids go there. Our town may be largely populated, and pretty large geographically, but you know everybody’s business. Even when you don’t want to know everybody’s business.
Brentwood High School is so big, that there’s technically two of them. Ross was by itself for a long time, but when it became too crowded, Sonderling was built. My dad grew up on the West Side, and my mom grew up on the South Side. They graduated the same year, but my dad came from Sonderling and my mom from Ross. They had no idea who each other were, until they met about almost ten years later, in a random bar called Barkers. That’s how big this place is.
Seriously, you should have realized it was big when I said that I live in a different town, and went to school there.
But it’s also pretty damn small. Because generations of people decided to stay here, everybody is somehow connected. My best friend, Jeanette? I met her at a Halloween party when I was like seven, but we didn’t realize it until we saw a picture of the two of us together, years later. And her mom went to prom in the same group as one of my uncles, but we didn’t know that until we were planning for our own. Her mom, Jen, pulled out a picture of her group at prom, and in the back row, with Jen’s friend, was one of my mom’s brothers.
Big town, small world.
I’d have to say that would be the thing that I hate most about Brentwood—how everybody is too closely connected. As long as you’re on the premises, everyone knows what’s going on with you…and you know what’s going on with everybody else. It’s really obnoxious.
Despite that, I love my town. It was actually really refreshing when I went to college, and almost nobody knew about Brentwood. So long as the people didn’t know Brentwood, they didn’t know the reputation it had. Sure, gang members roam the streets. Yes, fights happened here and there. And yeah, some jacked up stuff happens near the high school. But get this straight: only the handful of kids that do the stupid things they do have given this town its horrible reputation.
Brentwood has always been so good to me. We have one of the best music programs in the country, and the best in the state. And the kids on our soccer, basketball, and wrestling teams are pretty freaking talented. Do you know how often I hear about kids from here being accepted to colleges ridiculously early, just for their talents?
Caitlyn just told me a couple days ago that a kid on the basketball team had Iona College calling him to be on their basketball team, and he isn’t even a senior in high school yet. How amazing is that? (For those of you who don’t follow March Madness, Iona’s well known for their basketball team.)
That school is so full of talent. Just between the sports and the arts, the kids are amazing at what they do. And the staff at Brentwood, for the most part, really connect with the kids. I always had very supportive and helpful teachers—and they care about their kids. I have such a high respect for teachers and school staff, solely because I had really good relationships with them.
I had a great experience growing up, no matter how bad the news makes that town look. I spent a lot of my childhood in those schools, and I have only ever felt like I was in danger once. And it was because a prisoner was on the loose, and the school was put on lockdown. Which had nothing to do with my school, or the students.
I grew up in a town that was not only accepting of everyone, regardless of ethnic background, sexual orientation, body shape, size, and preferences in all areas, but was protective of their kids. It didn’t matter if you were white, black, Hispanic, gay, transgender, fat, anorexic, whatever—the school staff and students alike tried their hardest to make sure you felt at home. Sure, there were the random people who didn’t show kindness and respect, but it wasn’t very common to come by that. And that is what I loved most about my town.
Everybody looks, speaks, and is raised differently, but we’re a community that sticks together in times of need. The kids in Brentwood have a lot of pride in their town. Despite the fact that my home is considered a dangerous place to be, that’s not all that it is. It is a community filled with people who want something greater. Some of them don’t do it the ideal way, that’s for sure, but they do it in any way that they can—for themselves, for their spouses, and for their children. Brentwood doesn’t discriminate against those that are different; they celebrate them. And that’s what the community is all about.
Prompt: What did you like most about where you grew up? What did you dislike the most?