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Written by Jes-c Brandt   

First Time

At this moment, I am in the midst of a unique first-time opportunity. I finally got to bring an out-of-towner to Holyoke for her first time.

It doesn’t sound like much, but hear me out. While I was in college in Massachusetts, I constantly heard stories from my high school friends about bringing their new college friends to Holyoke. Granted, it’s much easier to persuade someone to jump in the car and drive down from a nearby college than it is to fly halfway across the country, but I was always a bit jealous regardless.

For those of you who routinely bring first-timers to town, this may seem silly, but allow me to show you where I’m coming from.

Given all my complaining about how small and boring Holyoke was as I was growing up, it was shocking for me to believe that I would actually speak highly of this place once I left. You see, it turns out spending almost my entire life in this little town shaped me in more ways than I could even know.

When I went on to college and started to get to know new people, I found myself talking about Holyoke with surprising frequency. Having moved to Texas to start my first job, I’ve noticed the same thing happening with new acquaintances there.

When asked about my family, I take a deep breath before listing their seven names and a little blurb about them, noting that they all still lived back in Holyoke.

Inevitably, at the mention of Holyoke we talk about our hometowns, and I mention that I lived here since I was a toddler. I chuckle as I tell them the closest Wal-Mart is an hour’s drive, and my go-to statistic to give others an idea of the size of the town is that my graduating class had 37 people in it.

Of course, when I speak of my class at HHS, I get to talking about how many of my fellow graduates were my classmates from as early as kindergarten. And I’d say that’s an experience that truly is unique.

In discussions of previous employment, I recall my internship at the Enterprise. When getting involved in new church communities, I describe the Holyoke First Christian Church, which I grew up going to with my family.

As you can see, Holyoke easily slips into my conversations. In the five years since living elsewhere, it has blown my mind to discover how much of what I have experienced is rooted in this little town.

For those people I’ve become close to since moving, getting to know me means getting to hear a good deal about Holyoke, and I’ve often thought it would be fun to put a visual to all my stories.

To my delight, I’ve finally managed to convince someone to visit Holyoke. My friend and coworker, Mindi, made the day-long drive to Colorado with me last week. We shared celebration when we finally exited Texas after traveling for the better part of a day. Together we marveled at a beautiful sunset behind the mountains in Trinidad, after we finally crossed the Colorado border.

Because it was her first time in Colorado, we spent a day up in the mountains, taking in the incomparable beauty and visiting a few must-see attractions. Afterward, we started the drive toward Holyoke and away from stereotypical Colorado.

Now I was totally honest with Mindi when I invited her to visit. I made sure she was aware we wouldn’t be spending our two weeks on a glamorous Rocky Mountain vacation. She agreed to come anyway. As we traversed the plains to get to our final destination, however, I started to get a little nervous that she might be horribly disappointed.

Now that we have been here for a week, I think I can say with confidence that Mindi has been pleased with her first visit to Holyoke, where she has had a share of firsts herself.

We had the good fortune of being here during the Phillips County Fair, which provided us great entertainment, and Mindi attended her first stock car race. We crossed the state line to volunteer at Feed My Starving Children in Imperial, Neb., a new—and highly rewarding—experience for both of us. We even sat side by side through Mindi’s first blood donation.

I’ve been thrilled to introduce Mindi to some of my favorite people in the world, as well as some of my favorite pizza, and it’s been fun showing her around town and sharing my favorite tidbits and history about places such as the Heginbotham Library and the Peerless Theatre.

No, it hasn’t been the most sensational vacation ever, but we have been thoroughly enjoying the ordinary offered here in Holyoke. I’m proud to bring her to such a hospitable community.

Holyoke Enterprise Aug. 2, 2012