Dayton, Ohio is my home, although many people lived their whole youth hoping to get out.
I grew up on the "dark side" of University of Dayton, with my older sister and my mother who was attending college. It was just us. And all my mom's friends. We attended the day care on campus, with a bunch of kids who I would end up going to high school with.
I remember eating peanuts from a bag with my friend Rachel on the playground in the red circular tunnels with the singular hole on top that kids would stick their arms down to scare you. We had our first ever sleep over that night. We were SO excited and rowdy that we got in trouble and they seperated us for the rest of the day. Our first-ever sleep over; we talked and laughed all night that her mom made her sleep in her bed with her. It was storming that night, so I was terrified.
After my mom graduated college, we moved to Oakwood, where my mom got a job with the Democratic Board of Elections. That place became my second home. I spent a lot of time in downtown Dayton growing up.
Around Christmas time one year, my mom took my sister and I on a carriage ride downtown by the old (then standing) Elder Beerman. I stood inside the doors of the Elder Beerman on the corner while my mom waited outside in the freezing cold. My older sister had taken my mom's place outside in line, to let her warm up a little bit inside with me. An older lady saw what my sister had done for my mom, and gifted her some money. When she turned around to thank her, she was gone. She said it was an angel. I was inside in the warm building, so I didn't see anything! I remember it being a huge deal to them, but I'm probably the only one who remembers this story now.
At the Democratic Board of Elections, my sister and I, and the other two sisters, Kelsey and Hilary, would run around the old building downtown like it was our playhouse. The big empty kitchen was our favorite place to play. Sometimes, we would sneak into one of the offices, to take the candy kept in the closet. At functions, we'd run around the old, small basketball stadium. We found hidden passage ways, hidden coves, closed off kitchens (again), and out back, there were stairs heading down to the basement. There was loud thumping music coming up from behind the closed door, with a red light lighting the passage way down. We never went down there. We would talk about it, but always got too scared to do it. In the summer, at the annual picnics, we would fill cups from the soda fountain in the mobile trailer. My sister would never let me handle the money, so Kelsey and I would just fill the cups. I helped my mom hand out flyers to houses, and lick a ton of envelopes. I absolutely loved going to work with my mom. Not sure she felt the same way, haha.
I went to E.D. Smith Elementary school. There's a rivalry with Harman, the other elementary school on the west side of Oakwood. They have bigger houses over there, the streets twist and turn, and it's pretty hilly. The east side has symetrical blocks, with the houses closer together. But they all have beautiful old, historical houses with wood floors that creak with every step making it nearly impossible to sneak out at night. That never stopped me.
1st grade, I had social anxiety, still do, and was terrified on my first day. We played an ice breaker where we all sat in a circle, with our heads down, and our hands behind our back. One person would place a bone in someone else's hands and we'd have to guess who it was. It was kind of like duck duck goose. I got SO nervous, and SO happy that someone had placed the bone in MY hands. At recess, standing alone on the black top, the same girl that had put the bone in my hands asked me to play with her, her name was Alyssa. And we've been friends ever since then. She's always been the outgoing one.
In Oakwood, there are no bus systems because our town has about a 3-mile radius, so everyone supposedly can walk to school. That means we RARELY had any snow days. In school, I joined the Girl Scouts, went to dances, and marched in That Day in May parade. We ran around the town like we owned the place. We'd play in the woods, splash in the creek, go hiking, play at each other's houses, meet up at the many parks. We could walk or ride our bikes to anywhere and everywhere. We never had to worry about getting kidnapped. Emily and I even rode the RTA to the Dayton Mall once to play DDR at the archade, the things your mother doesn't know...
In the summer, I was on the swim team, the tennis team, the dance team, whatever else my mom could find to keep me busy so she could go to work. I attended Camp Kern for 8 years in a row. When I wasn't at Camp, I was at a summer day-care after swim and tennis lessons. On a field trip, I sat in the back of the van when one of the girls told me to put my middle fingers up. I had NO idea why she was fascinated with my middle fingers. To shut her up, I gave her both of my middle fingers like she asked. "TAYLOR!", the driver had shouted. I had to sit with my hands on top of my head for the rest of the car ride. I cried. I had no idea it was a bad thing! Now I know what the middle finger symbolizes, and that doesn't stop me from putting my middle fingers up today.
After school, I would go over to Alyssa's cousins house to play because we were neighbors. One day, her cousin, Hank, fell off of his scooter and I laughed at him. I was in like first or second grade. He got up off the ground, and came running towards me shaking, red in the face. I didn't know what was happening, but I knew I needed to run. I remember looking at his front door, thinking I would be safe if I just made it that far to his parents, but I made it to the grass in the front yard before I felt the wind get knocked out of my chest, through my throat and out of my mouth. I layed there, grabbing my chest, holding onto dear life, trying to breath but I couldn't. I thought I was going to die. I finally was able to breath, and just bawled my eyes out and ran home. For awhile, I stopped playing with Alyssa at Hank's house after school.
Later on in elementary school, I'd sneak out to my friend's houses for lunch without telling our parents. Emily's mom was never home, so we'd always eat lunch over there. Once, we accidently dumped a BRAND NEW gallon of milk thinking it was expired, her mom was furious. Molly had a trampoline and a hot tub, so we went over there nearly every day. I had a lot of sleepovers with Alyssa too, we would have dance and gymnastic shows for her parents. I remember she was impossible to wake up, I would shake her, touch her, give her wet-willies, nothing. Then I would whisper, "Alyssa" in her ear and she would wake up. I spent a lot of time with my friend Victoria too, her family was from England. She had a lake house nearby my friend Caroline's lake house, so we spent a lot of summers down there. When we weren't on the water, we were playing the Sims. I remember telling her that her older brother, Lucas, was drinking beer and doing bad stuff. She refused to believe it because to her, Lucas was perfect, and he adored her. But I knew what he was really doing behind that closed bedroom door with that girl. Lucas introduced me to Tupac.
Freshman year of high school, Hank and I sat next to each other in science class. I would do all of the work, then hand him the assignment for him to copy for the next day. Growing up, I played every sport imaginable. My mom said I had to play sports or get a job. I was like 10 years old, so she tricked me. In high school, I tried out for the high school soccer team. In the end, two girls didn't make the team. One of the girls had thrown up everywhere, and the other girl was me. Who knew I was that bad? I sure didn't. I had to join the track and cross country team because they were the only sports you didn't have to try out for. I hated sports, still do. So when I turned 16, I got my first real job at Ashley's Pastry Shop.
Junior year, I had to take Biology because I missed a year studying abroad. The only other Junior in that class was Jacob. I had the biggest high school crush on this guy. He had the deepest blue eyes, he dressed like he didn't give a fuck about school, but he would show up everyday with a new book he was reading. He would passionately tell me about the book, and I would listen as if I was at all interested in the book itself. He would talk, and I would smile and blush, and then I would catch my teacher smiling at us. She knew. I finally got the courage to ask him bowling with me and some friends, and he said no. That was that, haha. He cared about classes and school, but he could do without all the other students.
I didn't think high school was bad at all. I volunteered my lunch time in the cafeteria with my friends. I loved my classes, I ran track and cross country, came home for dinner, did my homework and made it for the new episode of One Tree Hill. On the weekends I would hang out with my best friends, along with many of our other friends in the neighborhood. My friend Grant would always try to push us into the street on our walks home from school.
I think Oakwood is a great place to grow up, as long as you have the right group of friends. I got extremely lucky to find my closest, longest friendships there. It's a beautiful place, has four seasons, each season just as beautiful as the one before it. Oakwood offers a quality school system in beautiful historic buildings, lots of parks, activities, and sports. Dayton has the best local pizza places; Milano's, Donato's, Old Scratch, Marion's, Kramer's. Ice cream; Graeter's and Ben & Jerry's. Restaurants; the Oakwood Club, the Pine Club, along with many more. Dayton has great entertainment, such as the Schuster Center, the historic Victoria Theatre, MUSE machine, ballet, Red Hotz and Lollipops. For halloween, the boulevards are lined up with hundreds of scarecrows as a competition of who can create the most creative one.
Dayton and Oakwood get a lot of shit. But, I couldn't have asked for a better home or better friendships.