I moved to Whitefish a little over a year ago. It was the summer before my junior year, and Whitefish was utterly unlike the environment in which I had been raised. I was from Boston, a big city on the East Coast. I went to a school of 2,500 students, not 500. I walked and took public transportation, never drove. I didnít even have my license.
Since I moved here, I have been asked why countless times, by people back in Boston and here in Whitefish. Why would my family leave our city life and move to a small town in Montana? Itís actually a relatively simple answer: We wanted to.
My parents both grew up in Great Falls. They were high school sweethearts and attended the same college. They were married at 21, had my older brother at 23. They moved to Chicago the same year so that my father could attend graduate school. He then got a job in Boston and has been working there since.
I was born two years after they had moved there. They loved it; it had truly become their home. But they were young and far away from their family. They made the decision to move back West, closer to home, but they could not move to Montana. My father couldnít work there. So we moved to Salt Lake City when I was three. We were closer to our family, some of which lived in Provo, some in Texas, some in Arizona, most in Montana. But it was still an eight-hour drive, and now my father had to travel back East every other week for work, leaving my mother alone with two kids and a graduate program. We lived there for almost three years. Almost all of my childhood memories are from there. I have a Utah dialect even now. When they told us that we were moving back to Boston, I was heartbroken.
We arrived there in July, the muggy heat and the smell of car exhaust suffocating. I hated our old house, the smell of garbage that permeated the city air, and the endless crowds that jostled against me on the sidewalks. But I was young. I adapted quickly. Pretty soon, Boston was my one and only home. I was a city girl, through and through.
We still visited Montana as often as we could, at least once a year. When I was 9, we started coming to the Flathead Valley for our summer trips. We fell in love with the environment here, which was so different from the terrain in Great Falls where my parents grew up.
When I was in eighth grade, my mother gave birth to my little brother. Our entire family dynamic changed, and we realized that maybe it was time for a change of lifestyle as well. I continued at my high school for a couple of years, but we were all anxious to get out of the city, to breath free and clean for once. We all decided that junior year would be the best transition time for me, so we made it happen.
Iím still adjusting to the small-town lifestyle. Itís strange for me to go to the grocery store, coffee shop, restaurant and see people that I know. Itís sometimes frustrating to have such limited dining and shopping options. But overall, we are so happy here. There is a sense of community that is inspiring, and there is not the pressure to rush, work, run like there was before.
As much as Boston will always be in my heart, being my place of birth and the setting of most of my childhood memories, I can safely say that Whitefish is my home.
Josephine Johnson is a senior at Whitefish High School.