Looking back at my time spent as a young'un in the great city/town of Oneonta as I prepare to leave very shortly for a new college town in the fall, I realize just how many facets of my life that I took for granted.
All of my elders chatted over coffee about how great the area was to raise a family and how beautiful they found the scenery to be.
No offense to anyone on the town or city councils or any die-hard Oneonta fan, but as a child and young teenager I know I did not find Oneonta to be a bustling metropolitan center of culture. In fact, I might even go so far as to say I thought farther cities, such as Albany or Binghamton, to be more exciting to visit.
And while I still find Albany and Binghamton to be worthwhile ventures for new restaurants or shopping expeditions, I am happy to report that my perspective on Oneonta's offerings has drastically changed as my horizons have broadened.
As I searched for the perfect college for me this past year, I noticed that I tended to favor schools that had a smaller-town vibe to them, claiming that I "just don't think of myself as a big-city type of girl." It took me a while to realize the influence Oneonta has had on my life.
It wasn't until recently that I appreciated what a sense of community Oneonta exudes, and how safe and loved I have felt throughout my entire life.
Picture this: waking up on a recent Sunday morning, I prepared myself to brunch with two girlfriends.
I drove from my home on the West End over to River Street to pick one of them up, phone ready on the seat next to me to call her in case I could not find her house.
(Note: Is Oneonta the only town where it is OK to drive 25 mph down the road, stopping every couple feet to look for said friend? If so, thank you to the three cars stuck behind me for a good four blocks while I did so.)
Once I successfully found my friend and we proceeded up Main Street, I turned onto Market Street to park in the parking garage.
Walking through the crosswalk in front of my car was a well-known musician in town who happens to be good friend of my sister. Therefore, my friend and I both waved to him, as he voiced a hello back to us.
We successfully parked without incident and we headed to the Autumn Café downtown, where we located our third and final bruncher across the street from us.
As we entered the Autumn and sat ourselves in the midst of a lively café, clearly one of the favorite breakfast spots in town, I couldn't help but smile at all of the activity. People of all ages, from infant to the golden years, were seated and enjoying themselves around us, and I was happy to be part of their Sunday-morning experience, in even the smallest of ways.
Our waitress, friendly and very busy, was a good friend of my best friend's older sister (it makes sense in my head). She was attentive and made sure to draw our attention to the board of specials, which were named after items and characters from "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," a personal favorite of mine.
After ordering the "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Pancakes," I reclined and caught up with my friends, whom I hadn't seen for most of the summer. Among many things, we talked about the bevy of musical acts and groups, such as Death Cab for Cutie, Wilco and Bon Iver, that have been performing in and around the area.
Toward the end of my meal, I spotted a good family friend, who chatted with me for a minute before meeting up with her own group.
We paid and left the café after a delicious and filling brunch, talked to our hearts' content, and headed back to the parking garage, but not before spotting a friend's mother reading in Muller Plaza.
Case in point: Not only was I able to spend a great morning with my friends over a delicious breakfast, but I saw so many friendly and familiar faces at the same time. My younger self used to find constant familiarity to be irritating and significant of a cliché small town. However, as I've grown older and am preparing to leave my home in Oneonta for college, I realize what a blessing that familiarity truly is. How often will we ever have that sense of community?
So many places, like the Autumn Café, have become landmarks of my childhood, and as many others, I am sad to see some of them, such as the wonderful Sport Tech, end their reign in Oneonta.
I will be forever thankful for the warmth of the people and beauty of the nature that has shaped me into the person I am today.
I give Oneonta two thumbs up, way up, for this wonderful hometown.
Maggie McVey, a 2012 graduate of Oneonta High School, will be a freshman at the State University College at Plattsburgh in the fall. 'Teen Talk' columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/teentalk.