When people ask me where I’m from, I have a hard time answering. When you’ve lived in four states and about six cities, it’s hard to say for sure. Do people want to know where I live now, where I lived the longest, where I was born, or where I consider my hometown to be?

I usually answer with the statement, “I’m originally from Dallas, Texas.” It covers most of the bases as I was born there, lived there the longest, and still consider it to be my hometown. But that statement is usually met with funny looks and I’m forced to explain what I mean by “originally.”

Thus, I say in as few words as possible that I was born in Dallas and lived there, and in the surrounding area, for 15 years. I moved to Grand Blanc, Mich. when I was 15 and lived there for three years. After graduating from high school, I moved to Chicago to go to college and lived there for the past four years. Then, because my family relocated to Clinton, I moved there in July to be with them.

People occasionally want to know which place I like best, but it isn’t hard to guess. Dallas is, and probably always will be, my favorite place. When you’re born somewhere, you unconsciously acquire a sense of loyalty to that place. And with Texans, that loyalty is extreme.

I also think I had a pretty good childhood, so I look back on my years in Dallas with fondness, and sometimes a little longing. I had some of the best friends during those years.

One of the people that often comes to mind when I think of Dallas is my friend Jeanette Crumpler, “The Tomato Lady.” Jeanette was like a surrogate grandma to me when I was little, and she spoiled me rotten.

She taught me how to garden, turning me loose in her backyard. I would help her plant flowers, decorate her gazebo, and tend to her two small fish ponds. She took me to the Nickel Ranch, the best arcade in our neighborhood, to play games for hours. And she encouraged me to write stories as she is a freelance writer and published author.

We would spend weekends together, going out for lunch at CiCi’s Pizza, shopping for herbs and renting movies for me to watch later at her house. I guess she pretty much baby-sat me, but at the time I thought we were two friends just having fun together.

Jeanette was called the tomato lady because she knew everything about tomatoes and grew a ton of them in her backyard. I’ve never been a fan of tomatoes, but everyone else raved about hers.

Jeanette always showed me things that I never would’ve known otherwise. She taught me which herbs were which, and supplied me with basil and rosemary for my own garden. She took me to a pipe organ concert where they played along with silent movies. And best of all, she told me stories from her childhood, which I loved.

One thing that I didn’t learn until later from my friendship with Jeanette was that age is inconsequential when it comes to friendships. It doesn’t matter how old you are; you can be a friend to anyone.

Jeanette and I weren’t in the same grade in school; we weren’t even born in the same generation. But we still did just about everything together. She taught me a lot about life, and I like to think that I helped make life fun for her.

I miss spending days with her, soaking up her wisdom and perspective on life. My friendship with her meant so much to me, even as a child. Someone like her, older, with her own life and important schedule, had time for someone like me; a little girl who still had so much to learn about the world.

I hope that there are other Jeanettes out there, befriending young people and passing on wisdom. I plan to one day do the same.

Elise Loyola is a staff writer for the Clinton Herald. She has been here since November 2008 and she can be reached at eliseloyola@clintonherald.com.