As a teacher living in sunny Los Angeles, 45-year-old Patti (Lane) Gray enjoys walking to school each morning. The native Western New Yorker walks 3 miles each direction, and her students think she’s crazy.
“I think they take everything for granted as far as the weather and the conditions that they have,” said Gray. “My students think I’m insane because I walk to and from work every day. But I say, oh, my gosh, the weather here allows me to do this.”
That weather is a far cry from the Western New York winters she grew up in, where she remembers walking outside in the wintertime and getting that familiar ring of salt at the bottom of her pants and shoes.
“I always had that ring. And it would increase in size the longer you were outside,” said Gray.
Gray has fond memories of her childhood growing up in Buffalo. She has tried to explain snow days to her students, an idea that is completely foreign to them but a memory she cherishes.
“Just being a kid and being able to play in the snow like that, there’s really nothing like that,” said Gray.
Gray grew up in the Town of Tonawanda but has lived in California since summer 2002. She was laid off from her teaching job at Christmastime 2001 and was unable to find work in the Queen City or Canada, where her husband is from. At a teacher recruitment event, she was offered a job right on the spot, so she and her husband headed west. Now she teaches with the Centinela Valley Union High School District.
Name: Patti Gray
Current Location: Gardena, a suburb of Los Angeles
Previous Location: Town of Tonawanda
Miss most about Buffalo: Family and friends
Love most about LA: The weather (it’s pretty comfortable most of the year); the fact that teachers are needed so much in California makes her feel appreciated
While she loves the California weather and palm trees, the high school teacher’s heart will always belong to Buffalo.
“There’s just something about the people there,” said Gray, who misses her family and friends who still live in the Queen City.
For the Kenmore East graduate, Buffalo is Sunday dinners at her grandmother’s house in South Buffalo; the natural beauty of Niagara Falls; growing up around her grandparents, aunts and uncles; and a childhood spent at Crystal Beach.
“Crystal Beach, that is one of my absolute favorite memories as a kid growing up there,” said Gray.
Gray and her husband, Aaron, a Canadian she met at the old Rumours nightclub on Clifton Hill in 1993, often think of moving back east.
“We just don’t have the friends and family here in LA that we have back there,” said Gray, whose Western New York friends supported her through the death of her mother last year.
“I don’t have that in LA, so when I came back, I felt like a big piece of me was missing,” said Gray, who keeps an eye out for collegiate-level teaching jobs back in Buffalo or even Canada.
When they do get back to visit, they usually only have a week at a time, and they have to split that between family in Buffalo and family across the border.
Gray says each visit back reminds her of everything she misses and loves about her hometown. She is proud of the progress the city has made.
“It definitely is a huge draw now that there is so much developed, and it’s not looked down (on) as much as it was when I was a kid,” said Gray. “Buffalo is just so very special because of its historical value. Also, the food, that is so amazing there. The people who are so amazing there."
It’s been more than a year since Gray last visited Buffalo, but it still has a huge place in her heart.
“It really is, as people say, Buffalove,” said Gray.
If you or anyone you know has a story to tell about moving back or to Buffalo, or about moving away, email email@example.com.
Alison Russo grew up in the Southtowns and lives in a suburb of Kansas City with her husband, Joe, and their two children. She works in television news and as a freelance writer.
Story topics: Buffalove from Afar