This article appears in the Spring 2015 issue of Vermont Life magazine. To enjoy more Vermont stories and photographs each quarter, consider subscribing to Vermont Life.
Editor’s Note: Maddie Baughman, an 18-year-old senior at Harwood Union High School, was asked as part of her college application process to write about “an event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community or family.” Though never intended for publication, her essay came to our attention at Vermont Life, and, with Baughman’s permission, we chose to share it with our readers.
Click play to hear the author read her essay.
By Maddie Baughman
Many 13-year-olds are mortified if their parents so much as get out of the car to pick them up from soccer practice. After all, parents ruin the illusion of independence. When I was 13, my dad would pull up in a 25,000-pound, iguana-green hook truck, filled to the brim with foul smelling, steaming cow manure. As much as I tried to pretend that my parents were mere accessories to my independent life,
when that massive vehicle pulled in, the truth was obvious.
It all began in the summer of 2008 when I returned from camp to find the defilement of my cherished home in Moretown underway. Excavators, dump trucks … I watched as my beautiful home, the fields I once ran through, the trees I loved to climb, were converted into a flat, gravel-covered site. Eventually a building arose, accompanied by a sign: “Grow Compost of Vermont.”
I was not an obliging contributor to any aspect of the new business, including the name selection. To me, everything sounded like a Walmart hair-growth product — “Grow Strong,” “Grow Organic” — which only added to my disdain. My anger flourished as my parents’ entrepreneurial pursuits became the center of my reality. When I saw relatives, they wanted to talk about my family’s new endeavor, and our family dinner conversations revolved around the newest construction or latest sales triumph.
My world was becoming defined by my parents’ occupation, but I didn’t want to be the poster child of the small-town, home business — as evidenced by two years’ worth of frowning family photos. My parents, meanwhile, justified their actions with statements like, “The business will allow us to both work at home,” or “This is a new adventure for all of us.” The more I tried to distance myself through disrespectful comments, the more my parents dismissed my opinion.
Sometime during high school, a gradual shift began to take place. My attention turned to my schoolwork and my job. I became sympathetic to my parents’ hard work. My mom began to confide in me about business details and to complain about her daily work-related frustrations. At age 16, I got a hand-me-down car and I didn’t even mind the “GROW VT” vanity license plate (even though it is sometimes confused as a pro-pot political statement).
This past summer, six years after that first excavation, I was in that very same iguana-green hook truck with my dad. We were talking about my grandparents’ property in New Hampshire, a place we hope to keep in the family for a long time. Then he said something that caught me by surprise: “You know, I love where we live, but it stopped being home a long time ago.”
It was in that moment that I realized I wasn’t the only one with nostalgia for the place I grew up; I was just the only one who didn’t see the entire picture. I hadn’t been concerned with the well-being of the community, or the happiness of my parents, or what was best for my family. I had been 13 and only concerned with the loss of what I knew to be safe.
I am grateful to my parents for letting me be a child, and letting me be angry and upset and defend the only thing I knew. I am grateful for their assiduous work and determination to create a sustainable business in the face of a challenging economy. I wasn’t ready to consider the harsh realities that they had to worry about. But now, at 18, I admire their determination and persistence; as someone who is exploring my own future possibilities, I can only hope to approach them with the same dedication that my parents did. They created something new and ambitious in an adult world of responsibility. I hope to do the same, but with a different endpoint in mind.
As I prepare to leave my family, and Grow Compost of Vermont, I am no longer filled with nostalgia as much as I am excited for the future. This is what my parents wanted: a good future for me, for my brothers, for themselves. For them, that was the promise of Grow Compost. For me, it was something else entirely.