As an Air Force brat, I didn’t have a permanent home–we moved every 2-4 years throughout my life as a kid. Because both of my parents were originally from New Jersey and many of my relatives lived there, it was my home by default. I always said I was “from” New Jersey when people asked. My grandparents’ place was our home base whenever we traveled, vacationed, or moved from one military installment to another; it was our comfort zone and the one constant location in our lives. After my dad died in 1973, my mom moved back to the same little NJ town where she’d grown up, Laurel Springs, the same town where her parents still lived. By then I was married to my first husband and living in Texas, though I claimed NJ as home and returned to visit when possible. I did talk my ex into moving to NJ for a couple of years when I attended grad school, but he wasn’t that keen on it and we hightailed it back to Texas as soon as I had that MSW in my hand. 🙂 He felt about Texas the way I felt about NJ but somehow he won out in the battle of “where’s home?”
Although I’ve only lived in NJ for a very small portion of my years (a few as a baby, two in high school, two in grad school), I continue to identify it as my emotional home. My mom is here, one of my brothers and his family, a few aunts still living, and quite a number of cousins. I’m not as New Jersey as people who’ve lived here all their lives–I don’t always get the references or know the lingo–but it’s the closest I come to having a place that brings back lots of memories and emotions. The first thing I want to do when I get here is to go get a hoagie to eat. 🙂 The look of the houses, the big trees and the ocean shore, the Jersey accent, the loud voices and strong opinions, the various ethnicities, the smell of a small home-owned deli, Jersey tomatoes and “wudder ice” and frozen custard, Springsteen on the radio, the boardwalk, iconic diners, and not being allowed to pump my own gas all spell out “New Jersey” in capital letters.
We slept in this morning after lots of early mornings, long days, and driving late last night. We had hoagies for lunch and pizza for dinner, both of which taste better in NJ for some reason. In between we went to the store and bought some food for tomorrow night, when some of my cousins are coming over to visit. It rained a little today and we mostly hung out at the house, relaxed, chatted. It’s good to be home.