I’ve seen this link floating around the internet for the past few weeks now: A love letter to Lexington, Kentucky. If you haven’t seen the original, I’ve posted the link below. As I read it for the first time, tears came to my eyes–not necessarily because I agreed with the letter (in fact, I have very little in common with the writer), but because I too love my hometown and am just now coming to realize how much. In the weeks since I’ve read this, it’s popped up several times in my thoughts and I’ve decided to write my own love letter to this beautiful town.
Link to the original: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/love-letters/love-letters-lexington-ke_b_3859638.html
I have never really “owned” you as my city, though I was born and raised (mostly) within your city limits. In fact, I often complained about you, which I believe was really unfair of me to do. I’d like to apologize for that. Going outside of your familiar walls has made me realize just how great we had it and just how much I took you for granted. You really are a gem of a place, and I have memories from throughout my life that make me fondly appreciate you.
I’m not sure if this is true, but I tell people I was brought home from the hospital in a UK outfit. Actually, I’m almost certain it isn’t true, but I’ve seen pictures of myself–as a very, very tiny baby–in a UK jersey, so it isn’t that far from the truth. I say this to illustrate that UK basketball has been a part of my life from basically day 1. I know basketball + Lexington is kind of cliché, but I can’t avoid it here. I am not really a sports fan. I enjoy sporting events in person and will gladly go if it’s someone else’s idea, but UK basketball is the one sport I will watch of my own accord. To me it represents family bonding, bluegrass pride, and the first time I cussed in front of my dad. Basketball is integral to your culture, and I think that’s great (except for the crazy, burning-couches people, but that isn’t your fault, Lexington).
When I was in fourth grade at Meadowthorpe Elementary School I was assigned a project about Kentucky history. The project required me to visit all sorts of historical landmarks around Lexington and make a sort of scrapbook. At the time, I remember being extremely annoyed, because the project took up three good Saturdays of my youth with driving around taking pictures of “old houses.” Looking back though, I saw a lot of beautiful places I might not have seen otherwise. Even as an annoyed 9-year-old, there was one place I loved: Ashland, Henry Clay’s Estate. It is a beautiful historic home in the middle of a neighborhood right outside of downtown. But once you’re on the property, you become completely unaware of the modern civilization around you. Even younger me could appreciate that.
I attended middle school at a school downtown. Though middle school is not a time I would repeat for ANY amount of money, I think this is when I really became familiar with your inner workings as a city. I saw the construction on the new Courthouse on my way to school each morning–a building that I still find so lovely and impressive today. I rode past Triangle Park and the library each day as well–two more downtown treasures. Triangle Park brings back memories of art fairs, henna tattoos, fourth of July fun, and a giant lit up Christmas tree. The cycles of festivals and decorations going through that park marked the cycle of the year as much as the changing seasons and the weather. I will miss that Christmas tree this year–the one that could mark the onset of Christmas season, even and especially in the years when Kentucky weather didn’t get the memo.
Looking back, Lexington, I realize now that you are the perfect blend of beauty and convenience. You’re big enough to have restaurants, shops, and neighborhoods galore! But not so big that it takes more than 20 minutes to get anywhere. And you are a city, with all of the modern amenities expected of that title, but you are so much more than that. You have beautiful parks woven throughout you and even a lovely nature preserve. I still remember the first time I hiked to the overlook at Raven Run. Who knew that a place with so many McDonald’s restaurants could also have a view like that? I am missing the easily-available green in my current surroundings. You were the best of both worlds in that regard.
Speaking of green, can I just say how much I enjoy Keeneland? I always loved how the two open seasons corresponded to mine and Hayley’s birthdays, but I doubt that that is intentional, so it probably doesn’t deserve much merit. But growing up, I felt that Keeneland was open especially for me, which is a feeling that a young person especially appreciates. I know many people enjoy Keeneland for the races and entertainment and dressing up, but I like it for other reasons. Getting a teenager out of bed on a Saturday a 6 a.m. isn’t easy, but Keeneland was enough for me to gladly do that. I cherish the foggy Saturday mornings I spent there, walking around, eating breakfast, and really enjoying the land and horses before the crowds show up. I think that is a hidden side of Keeneland more people should experience–I know it’s something I always loved, but also took for granted.
Now that I am away from you, I realize just how great you were. I’m sorry that I never fully appreciated you while I was with you, but I’m beginning to realize just how lucky I was to be raised in a place like you. I’m adjusting to my new home, and it is pretty great in its own way, but I think I’ll always have Kentucky roots. I wouldn’t really have it any other way. Thanks for the memories, Lexington, and I’m sure we’ll keep in touch.