Raised in Pinetop-Lakeside, no matter how far I travel, I always knew that it is my home. Pinetop-Lakeside is a small town in Arizona where many people come to visit and enjoy the scenery, but only for a short time, then they must pack up and go back to the hustle and bustle of the large city. I, on the other hand, am fortunate enough to call this beautiful town home. From the Friday night football games to the Fall Festival held every year, Pinetop-Lakeside is the typical cliché of a small town.
I was born in Phoenix and lived there until the summer after my fourth grade year. For a 9 year old, the excitement of moving was overwhelming. Sure, I would be leaving all of my friends, but I understood that I would soon make new ones. I was counting down the days until we moved, but my older brother and sister were dreading it. My sister, 6 years my elder, and my brother 5 years my elder, were being forced to leave the friends they had grown up with all of their lives. Arriving in Pinetop, it was clear to our entire family that we would be starting over. It has been quoted that “to take one step up, you have to take two steps back,” and that was the story of our family for the first year and a half that we moved here. Having both of my parents sell their businesses in the city to share a partnership in our new town sounded like a wonderful opportunity, until we had to give up everything we had to start this wonderful life. Our first home was our fifth wheel camper, which we ironically stayed in just 2 years prior to our move to the mountains for a family vacation. Now, the same recreational vehicle that gave us so many wonderful memories was giving us a place to call home. Struggling does not quite cover what my family and I went through before we were back on our own two feet, or should I say ten feet. For my parents, establishing a business in a small town was not what they had expected. The businesses that are in this area have history and family ties. People had shopped at these stores for years. Their grandparents shopped there, their parents the same, and now they too would be faithful to the businesses that had been there for years. So how did my parents do it? With hard work and determination. My parents are a true inspiration to me and they have always taught me to strive for what we want and dream of what will be. They provided a wonderful small town life for me and I would not trade any of my time here for the rushed city life that I hear is so great.
From fifth grade until graduation day when I stood in front of my class awaiting to give them the cue to turn their tassels, I could name anyone of my classmates first and last names and probably what their parent’s did for a living. I could tell if they had an older brother or sister, or if they were a member of any of the clubs on campus. Some may say that’s so “small town” to know everybody’s business, and it is and that is why it is so great. It is not about knowing the bad about everybody in Pinetop, but rather it is about announcing the good in people’s lives. Being congratulated on a new baby, recent engagement, or a college graduation. In my town, if you have to go to the grocery store, you know that it will not be a simple trip to the store. You will always see a familiar face at our local Safeway.
Blue Ridge High School, known statewide for our numerous 3A State Football Championships was where I went to high school. Trust me, when it was football season on a Friday night, there was not another care in the world. The community comes together for our boys on the field and gives them tremendous support, but it is not only about the game. It is also about seeing everybody. During a football game, Pinetop-Lakeside, for the most part, shuts down. If you miss a home game, it is for a good reason. If you have a son playing or not, Blue Ridge Football is in your heart. However, in the “off-season,” we have plenty of other wonderful athletes to watch, and the Blue Ridge Yellow Jackets are always a strong contender making every state tournament for every sport. Our talent is well beyond the field though, we also participated in academics with State Championships in Academic Decathlon and Speech and Debate. Blue Ridge “raises” fine individuals. Not redneck country boys and girls, but cultured, well-rounded men and women. In high school, I was involved in Volleyball, Softball, Spanish Club, Bible Club, Ski Club, Mock Trial, Physics Club and Student Council, where I held the office of Class President for my sophomore, junior, and senior years. I had many wonderful experiences in high school and I truly believe in my heart that I would not be the same person that I am today if I would have grown up in the city. I have met many people in college and when they ask where I’m from and I tell them Pinetop, they just laugh and call me a small town girl, but that’s ok because that is who I am. The city kids that I have met in college do not understand the importance of community as I do. I grew up in a true community and with true friends. Not just groups of friends as many have, but a class of friends, all 200 of them.
After graduation, it’s always the same story: everybody cannot wait to leave for college. I was no different, but unlike many of my classmates, I did not go to the city, I instead went to Flagstaff because it reminded me of home. I still love coming back to Pinetop for the weekends, and making a “quick trip” to the grocery store for my mom. I love seeing my friend’s parents and hearing about how they also miss home. We all become butterflies once we graduate. We are given wings, and we do what we have dreamed to do, but we always come back because it’s our town, it’s our family, it’s our home.