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This is the opposite of a pop-punk song. We don’t want to talk about how much your hometown sucks, or how excited you were to finally get the hell out of dodge. We want to reminisce. We want to get nostalgic. We want to know what piece of your hometown you would carry around with you (if it was physically possible). We want to know what you miss the most.

I’m excited and sad to kick off this new series. I’m excited because it was my idea and I can’t wait to hear what other people have to say about the places they grew up, but I’m sad because the first place I think of when I look back on my time growing up in Maryland is historic Ellicott City. During the summer of 2016, main street was ravaged by a vicious flood that killed two people and destroyed businesses. Even now, in the middle of January 2017, people are still actively trying to rebuild. While the streets are no longer full of debris, many of the retail and restaurants are still boarded up, and last I heard, some are unsure if they’ll be able to afford the necessary renovations.

I can’t explain enough how strange it is to see a place you’re so deeply familiar with destroyed… but we’ve focused enough on the negative. Let me paint a picture of what it was like before the flood. Historic Ellicott City is a little corridor of old and incredibly quaint homes leading up to a small commercial district packed with vintage stores, art galleries, bars, restaurants, and other creative spaces. There’s a brewery called Ellicott Mills, a haunted bar called The Judge’s Bench, and a liquor store (The Wine Bin) that would hold outdoor movie screenings on the side of their building all summer long.

There’s a gallery where my oldest friend and illustration genius, Aminah Shourbaji, was showing her work just a week or two before the flood. There’s a restaurant called Pure Wine Cafe where my mom and I would often go to sit at the bar and have cocktails. There’s beer bar called the Phoenix Emporium where I would go and hang out with my friends every year when I went home for the holidays. But most importantly, there’s the Forget-Me-Not Factory.

Imagine a store that your grandma would love, one that’s filled with weird angel knickknacks and Christmas decorations, but it’s also kind of a store for old hippy’s, because it’s filled with weird gnome knickknacks, but it’s also the perfect store for an 8-year-old because it’s filled with fairy and unicorn knickknacks. That’s the Forget-Me-Not Factory. It’s three stories tall and there’s a bubble machine on the second floor that’s almost constantly throwing bubbles on to main street. There are Halloween costumes and garden decorations and books about dragons and a million other things. It’s packed to the brim with magic and I’ve never found something like it anywhere else. I probably never will.