I am not sure if I can technically claim New Jersey as home. I have only lived in the state a few times in my life: as a baby, as a high schooler for two years, and as a graduate student for two years. But both of my parents are from NJ and although my dad was in the Air Force, which took us all over the world, this is the place we always returned. My mom has lived in a little town called Laurel Springs since my dad died in 1973. This is the same town where she grew up and where my grandparents lived most of their adult lives. I have lots of aunts, uncles and cousins in the area, though the number is dwindling by the day. I’m at that age, unfortunately, where the “older generation” is quickly aging and I’ve lost some cousins as well, sad to say. Although I am not sure I could ever live in New Jersey again, there’s something about driving across the Walt Whitman Bridge from Philadelphia to “the Jersey side” that always feels like a homecoming. Some of my earliest memories are here: sleeping in little cots at my Grandmom and Grandpop’s house, watching my dad drink beer and play shuffleboard at the neighborhood tavern, family reunions, the sea breeze “down the shore,” the smell of a deli as I walk in the door, that distinctive Jersey accent. My brother and I were recently reading an interview with Bruce Springsteen (yes, of course we are fans!) where he used the word “Grandmom” and it made me really happy. It’s such a NJ name. Well, maybe East coast in general, I am not sure, but I claim it for NJ. In fact, maybe I should have taught my grandkids to call me “Grandmom” just to continue the link back to the old home town.
Several months ago my sister and I booked a sale flight from Austin to Philly so we could spend a week with our mom. The sale did not include Dallas, so my sister was nice enough to come to visit us for a couple of days before the trip even though she lives in San Antonio, much closet to Austin. We had a good visit here, dinner out with Sarah and Miles, an easy drive to Austin, left her car at off-airport parking, and flew on to Philly. We got in late at night so my cousin Tim picked us up and dropped us at Mom’s. Coincidentally, my brother Joe and his wife Denise were also coming in a couple of days later and stayed the duration of our visit before leaving for a wedding in SC. It is unusual for all four of us siblings to be in the same place at the same time (our other brother lives in NJ not far from Mom) so we had a good time hanging out and catching up.
The week flew by and we did not see as many people as we usually do but managed to squeeze in quite a few activities including pedicures, massages, enjoyed “Victoria and Abdul” at the movie theater, took a few drives, spit in tubes to send off our DNA to ancestry.com, did some research on our family tree on both sides, went to find our Grandpop Rice’s grave which we’d never seen and found an aunt and uncle at the same spot. Saw a few cousins and two aunts, went out for a family dinner with all my sibs, niece, nephew, Mom and aunt, had lots of good talks and big laughs, reminisced, brought home some children’s books from my childhood, ate several hoagies, frozen custard, fudge from the shore and local pizza (can’t be beat). I was happy to have some time with Mom and my sibs and to immerse myself in the Jersey-ness of it all. In the middle of that, we were shocked by the mass murder in Vegas and the death of Tom Petty–so much sadness in the world and I feel like nothing I say makes a difference these days.
Rich drove to Austin and met us, we dropped Kathi at her car and headed back to Dallas. Sarah and Miles are in Charleston for a little anniversary trip, which is coincidentally where Joe, Denise and their girls and hubbies were going to be so they will see each other there. That will be fun!
Brought back some hoagie rolls since we seem to have a hard time finding the right kind in Dallas. Yesterday we went to Jimmy’s Deli to get all the fixings and Rich made us some delicious hoagies for lunch. Tomorrow is our group work day in the community garden so we will be there in the AM. Back to the routine!