Home for the holidays part II
Last week I gave a shout out to all the grown-up Vail kids I could think of, using my column space as an all-purpose greeting card to say happy holidays to all the brilliant, good-looking people who grew up in the valley and decided to stay and give something back to the community that raised them.I’m happy to say that I’ve seen many of those people in the past week, and I’ve had the chance to give them holiday greetings face to face. I’m not sure if living in a small town is the right thing for everybody, but it definitely suits me. Encounters at the gas station, the grocery store, or the village are the best way to keep in touch with family friends and ol’ locals, and it happens to be where I get most of the story ideas that end up on the pages of this fine and distinguished weekly.As Christmas Day and New Year’s approach, there’s another batch of Vail kids who are home for the holidays. These are the ones who grew up in town but have moved on to live somewhere else. Fortunately for us, they all have family here, and most everybody ends up coming home for Dec. 25 or New Year’s Day to see ma and pa, and we local yokels have a chance to pick their brains about life on “The Outside.”The ritual of the “Return Home” is steeped in tradition. We warm up with a little street talk outside the Rucksack on Christmas Eve, where we’re all trying to find one last gift before deadline. On Christmas night we gather around Misha’s foosball table as if it were a Yule log, and then we delve into the fine art of grilling our city-dwelling pals on the finer points of heavy traffic, smog and crime.When the conversation and holiday cheer really gets rolling, we have a chance to find out what the ex-patriots think of the valley as it stands now. These people have a unique perspective because they knew the town very well as kids, and over the holidays they come home (sometimes after being gone five or more years) and see how much the valley has grown.Vail Village feels cold during the day, they say, and they mean it in more ways than one. It used to belong to us, now it belongs to the absentee “them.” But we shrug that away. What can we do? And besides, we still own it in the night.Edwards is a shock. In the past 10 years it has gone from pastoral to cramped and suburban, and even through it is the population center of the valley, it doesn’t have the kind of community identity that it should. Apparently it grew so fast that people are still getting to know each other. And until it is its own city it won’t have any community leadership.Other observations are sure to make the top 10 list during this year’s Vail Kids Christmas Reunion, and not all of them are complaints. Most of the people who come home over the holidays will tell us that they’re looking for a way to move home one day, raise their family here in this beautiful, friendly mountain valley. Granted, I’m sure to receive a hundred comments about the new parking policies and the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, but we’ll get to that in future columns.One thing the visiting folks won’t realize is how important they still are to the feeling of community in our town. We love to see you all, keep in touch, and know that we have ambassadors out there moving and shaking in places like Los Angeles, New York, Pocatello and Las Vegas. And when you come home, tell us what you think, because we need to hear it. Your outside perspective will help us remember what we’ve lost and gained with the ski-boom development of the valley, and you can help us keep an eye on your childhood haunts while you’re away.Those of you who live elsewhere don’t have the power to shape the future of this town, preserve its community and limit its exploitation, but we do. We’ve got a strong community of old-schoolers still hanging around, and we’ll make sure you’ve got a good place to bring your family when you decide, once and for all, to come home again.Tom Boyd is assistant editor of the Vail Trail and a lifelong local. He can be reached for comment at (970) 390-1585 or firstname.lastname@example.org every day except powder days, where he can be found on the mountain’s two-seater slow chairs.