October 19, 2006

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Nashua Publisher's Note: Home field advantage
By†Jeff Rapsis

This weekís Hippo focuses on how people can meet each other in southern New Hampshire.

I have a shy side, but meeting people in this part of the world has never been a problem for me because of a home field advantage: I was born here.

The first person I met, besides my mother, was Dr. Charlie Goyette, at St. Joseph Hospital on Kinsley on Jan. 14, 1964.

Thus began a lifelong accumulation of acquaintancesósome forced and some voluntaryóthat continues today. Itís never stopped, and it enriches my life in a big way.

How? Take Dr. Goyette. Though now retired, heís still very much around town. I had lunch with him and his unstoppably energetic wife Meri earlier this year. The Goyettes continue to be tireless Nashua boosters, full of ideas about how to make the Gate City a better place.

Knowing them reminds me that Nashua is more than just another small American city. This serves to make Nashua a real place with meaning and connections found nowhere else for me, and this all goes back to people Iíve met.

One of the first experiences of meeting people in volume came at Knee-High Kindergarten, which my aunt ran for many years in the basement of her Balcom Street home.

I am a proud graduate of Knee-High, where I learned at least one really valuable skill that serves me to this day: How to tie my shoes.

But I also became part of a club, though without knowing it at the time. To this day, sometimes when people sometimes hear my last name I get asked if Iím somehow related to ďthe Knee-High Kindergarten lady.Ē

This inevitably leads to a pleasant conversation, resulting in another person Iíve made a connection with.

And even if most of these people donít become close friends that get invited over on Christmas Eve, itís comforting to know that Iím surrounded by a lot of people with shared experiences.

Look around Main Street. Thereís Phil Scontsas at his family jewelry and home decor business, whom I remember playing Marcellus Washburn in his senior class rendition of The Music Man at Nashua High.

Thereís Neverett Smith, running his family vacuum business on East Pearl Street, whom I remember we once used as a soccer ball in third grade at Amherst Street School because our real soccer ball had rolled into the street.

But thereís a dark side to this situation, because it can work the other way. To many people, Iím still the frustrated 14-year-old who, rather than paint his grandmotherís porch, decided to storm up the railroad tracks one hot summer day.

And yes, Iím the same person who got as far as Milford that night, when the sun went down, and I borrowed a dime to use a payphone to call for a ride home.

From my mother.

No, for a hometown boy, meeting people isnít a problem. Sometimes, the problem is getting away from yourself.