When Anthony David settles into a new place, two questions creep into his mind.
They come on their own, a habit forged through years of meandering.
“How long am I going to stay here?” that mental conversation begins. And then: “Is this going to be my home for a while, or am I just going to leave again?”
David, now 21, moved 13 times before he was 17. As a child and teenager, he crisscrossed the South with his family. There was Texas. Florida. He lived with relatives in Virginia for a bit, too. The pattern was always the same: They’d stay for a while, sometimes sharing homes with family members, and then pick up and move elsewhere.
And finally, there was New Hampshire: Manchester, then Antrim. And now Peterborough.
When he talks about the events that have shaped his life, David isn’t bitter or upset. He accepts the rhythms of his nomadic childhood. It helped him developed a rare talent. To David, home can be anywhere, and family can be anyone.
He used this skill when he left his parents’ house at 18. He soon found two homes: one with a friend, the other with a teacher.
‘My own path’
David is quick to say that it wasn’t a tough childhood or any particular hardship that drove him out. His parents love him, he said, and he loves them.
But he said he had disagreements with them on how he should live his life. And there was stuff he couldn’t quite work out at home.
“The way I saw it for myself, even when I was 18, I just had my own path that I needed to take,” he said. “And it’s nothing my parents did or anything like that.”
Perhaps it was culture shock or a deep not-quite-right feeling. When the family moved from Manchester to Antrim in 2013, David had a hard time adjusting. He was a brown kid in a sea of white. He talked differently than everyone around him. His body language was different. He felt the glances of strangers on him, he said. He was an other.
The family moved to New Hampshire in the first place because his stepfather, Miguel Sancio, went to school there. After a short time in Manchester, they moved around a lot, eventually settling in Antrim.
David said they moved when his parents found new jobs or when a place got too expensive. Sometimes, he said, the family moved for a change of scenery.
“When I first moved to Antrim, it wasn’t my thing. I had lived in cities all my life,” he said. “And when I moved to Antrim — just having trees everywhere, and you needed a car to go anywhere.”
Deepening the feeling of not quite belonging, David was home-schooled before he attended ConVal Regional High School and found it difficult to meet people. He spent a lot of time playing basketball near the skate park in town.
That’s when he met a stranger who would soon become his best friend. Josh Fowler didn’t say much that first time they met — he simply threw a look at David.
“We kind of didn’t like each other at first,” Fowler, 20, said.
But at the end of summer, Fowler said, the two encountered each other at ConVal.
Neither one remembers exactly how they became friends, only that they did. Soon, David was spending most of his time at Fowler’s house in Antrim. It wasn’t long before David moved into Fowler’s home full time.
It was a cramped but loving environment, David recalled. Fowler gave David his bed, opting to sleep on the couch. And David tried to help by buying groceries every so often with money he earned from his part-time job at the concession stand at the Peterborough Community Theatre.
David lived with the family for a few months, but it was around the holiday season that Amanda Bastoni, then a teacher at ConVal, suggested he come live with her family.
Bastoni, who now works at Nashua North High School, and David told their story at last year’s TEDxKeene conference, a collection of presentations by local people, all revolving around the theme of turning things upside down. At the October event, Bastoni and David described their process of becoming a family.
They told the audience at The Colonial Theatre how David moved in with a backpack and two garbage bags. And David talked about how he became part of the family.
Growing closer, he told the audience, happened in stages. There were elaborate holiday dinners and gingerbread houses. There were conversations about expectations, traditions, habits and chores.
Somehow, without really expecting to, David began considering Bastoni, her husband, Abe Ewing — a wood shop teacher at ConVal — and kids, Trace Borozinski, now 15, and Finley, now almost 2, family. Gradually, Bastoni, who at school went by Ms. B or Ms. Bastoni, transformed in David’s mind to just “B” — a mother figure and a mentor.
But the Bastoni-Ewing clan didn’t replace his mom, dad or siblings.
“There’s my biological family, and they helped me so much, and I wouldn’t be myself if I wasn’t raised the way that they raised me,” he said. “But then there’s that other part of my life. When I moved out ... they took me in and helped me figure out the things that I couldn’t figure out myself, and they were with me every step of the way.”
David continues to live near the Bastoni-Ewing family in Peterborough while he completes his education. His sister, Yamari, 19, lives with him, as do several roommates in a property Bastoni owns, and they all pay rent. He’s studying graphic and interactive design at Mount Wachusett Community College in Gardner, Mass., and dreams of designing sneakers for Nike.
When he finishes his degree, David said he might try for a design fellowship in Oregon or New York. And while he said he can always stay with his second family in Peterborough or even his biological family in Antrim, David knows that it will soon be time for the next adventure.
“I know I’m not going to be here forever,” he said.