Name: Michael Brown
I Am: Originally from Irondequoit but now living in the city and working to complete my Ph.D. in American history at the U of R
Years in Rochester: The first eighteen years of my life and the last ten, with a five-year  departure in the middle
Current Home: East Avenue near Culver Road

Dear Rochester,

I feel a bittersweet kind of love for you when I am literally flying away. On all those weeks when I’m tangled up in town—dashing from the U of R to the public market to the Rundel to Charlotte—you feel so full. You’re full of people that I love, full of places that I cherish, full of memories in which the story of my life is etched. 

And then there I am speeding down the runway at your grandly named Greater Rochester International Airport, hangars and houses rushing by as I look out the little oval window of my plane bound for JFK, ATL, EWR, ORD, or BWI.  We’re quickly above the trees, and I see the cars on Chili Avenue or 390. There’s the dome of Rush Rhees Library and the auburn-tiled brilliance of Monroe Community Hospital. Then the little plane banks and curves, circling around downtown and exposing a panorama that opens all the way to Lake Ontario’s unbounded bluish-gray expanse. A second later—just a second—we’re over farmers’ fields: green in summer, golden brown in spring and autumn, white in winter. The city that seemed so full is quickly swallowed up by the vastness of the land around it. On overcast days, the disappearance is even quicker. I see your skyline for just a moment before a curtain of clouds closes over the scene.

How compact you are!  How much it seems, from that airplane window, that I can hold all of you—memories, people, and places—in the hollow of my hand.