Fame, Youngstown Style

Something really funny happened to me last week. My childhood friends and I got a big front-page story written about us in our hometown newspaper. Last month we had this big reunion and toward the end of the weekend when we were going through what is known as the Summer Camp High - that feeling like this is the most important, spiritual, sisterhood-infused moment in time, and you and these other campers share a bond and destiny - someone said, “I think we should send something into the paper about our trip.”

“Oh yes! Yes!” we all chimed in. Our voices were catching, we had tears in our eyes, and somebody opened another bottle of wine. If someone had said, “Anybody want to donate a lung?” We would have exchanged internal organs right there.

Then we all drove home separately, crying and texting and cell phone calling. Slowly the Summer Camp High faded and we returned to our lives of cooking, cleaning, doing hair, balancing books, dragging heavy things into and out of the garage, driving around doing stuff, sifting through piles of papers, and the trip was a smile-and-sigh-inducing memory.

Except that Janet may have actually been high and went ahead and sent something into the paper.

Oh well, we figured, they’re not going to do anything with it. The Youngstown Vindicator is the fifth largest newspaper in Ohio, for crying out loud. When I worked there you could barely get a reporter to come out to a chemical spill on Interstate 80. Unless lives were lost or the Mafia was involved, the city editors would sneer at your suggestion that maybe your story deserved to be somewhere better than below the list of real estate foreclosures. I don’t think I ever once got a front page byline, and I covered Boardman, where the mall was. And the mall was one of the few places in town that wasn’t either going out of business, boarded up, or covered with the pee of homeless men.

Imagine my surprise when a picture of me and my friends on the beach showed up on the front page - above the fold, no less - in the paper last Thursday. Better yet, the story included our high school senior pictures from our yearbook.

Since then, I’ve been getting calls and emails from old classmates and Hubbard people commenting on it. “How come you didn’t mention me?” one of the neighborhood boys emailed me. “I spent a lot of time hanging out on your front porch with you and Jeanne when I was supposed to be delivering papers.”

And I got a phone call from another former classmate, who wouldn’t tell me who he was, but made me keep guessing. “My locker was four down from you,” he said cryptically. I could barely remember where my locker was at the time, although, weirdly, I do still remember the lock combination. “Which direction?” I asked. “Come on, we were alphabetical,” he said. “There was my locker, then somebody else, then Rick Landy . . . somebody else, and then you.”

“Are you a K or an L?” I was stalling while I grabbed my yearbook and started flipping through the senior picture section. He heard the pages. “Are you looking in the Bard?”

“NO! I don’t know where my old yearbook is. Probably in with the other old stuff from the past that I don’t dwell on at all, now that I’m so busy and grown up and forward thinking.”

So it’s been a lot of fun wallowing in fame, Youngstown style. We managed to get on the front page of the Vindicator without going to prison or having Mafia ties. And now the whole town knows why Hubbard girls are the best.

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