I grew up in a place that does not exist. Not that it was in the Twilight Zone, but rather just a non-descript zone unsure of its identity and location. While our address said Grand Rapids, technically we were in the city of Walker. And our school district—Grandville—somehow crossed over from that neighboring city and swallowed up our elementary school. Nearby, and technically within Walker (which was more of an area than a city one could actually point to) there was the village of Standale, which can be found on only the most detailed of maps. Where was I from? Did I ever even ask this question? Confusion abounds.
This did not lead so much to divided loyalties in my mind, but rather no loyalty all. There was hardly a city in which I felt at home. And I suspect I was not alone in this feeling. While our elementary school existed in our non-existent place, it was the only one in the Grandville school district that was not in Grandville itself. And so traveling—bussing—to junior high brought us into a city as outsiders, and brought us in as generally poorer than those from the other feeder elementary schools. The popularity contest of junior high was stacked against us. We had not played in the same sports leagues growing up as the rest of the kids and so did not have many social contacts. Being outside of Grandville, I believe in all my years before junior high, I had never been to a high school football game, wrestling match, or any other event in “my city.” I didn’t know that one was supposed to do these things.
I doubt, however, that my experience is uncommon. What was unusual about the place—or lack thereof—of your childhood?