There are those who say you can never go home again. And there is another school of thought that insists you can always go home. I say, there is a little truth in both contradictory statements.
You truly can’t go home again after the homestead is sold. But home isn’t necessarily a house … it’s an area, a neighborhood, comfortable surroundings. And you can always go back to those memories.
For me, “home” is northern New Jersey. I grew up in Paterson and one of its suburbs, Totowa. After we got married, Karen and I first lived in East Paterson, Paterson and Ogdensburg up in Sussex County. While we moved to Belvidere, IL, Toledo, OH, Laurel, MD (Howard County side) and Seneca Falls and Romulus, NY, we both always considered northern New Jersey our “home.” We were comfortable there.
Yes, over the many, many years, the landscape has changed in northern New Jersey. My elementary and high schools are closed. My first place of employment has new residents. Even some of the cities have changed names (East Paterson is now Elmwood Park and West Paterson is now Woodland Park). South Paterson morphed from an Italian neighborhood to an Arab neighborhood with the aroma of falafel and kebabs replacing bacala and home made pasta sauce.
Still, when I get the chance, I love heading down to New Jersey. I never get lost and I never get intimidated by the cultures. I grew up there. I’m comfortable.
I always make sure I stop at the Paterson Falls … sometimes a trickle and sometimes thundering. I generally stop at Falls View for two dogs all the way and Frenchies well done, washed down with birch beer. White Castle is often another stop, and Pizza Town USA is a must. I love wandering through Pathmark and perhaps picking up a couple of rolls of Taylor’s Ham. If I’m in an Italian mood, it’s Corrado’s. And I try to pay my respects to my mom and dad and grandparents, although they are scattered in three different cemeteries.
If I want to get back to my center, though, I have to go to the Jersey shore. I prefer this time of year when the crowds are thinned. I could walk for hours along the ocean shoreline — and have. I am completely mesmerized by the ebb and flow of the tides. It’s my quiet place. It’s where I re-connect with God. It’s where I come to peace with myself.
Less than a month after Karen died, I found myself at the Jersey shore. We — me in the flesh and Karen in her urn — drove down to watch the sun rise over the ocean. I needed that to help me start healing.
I still do. If I’m really getting overwhelmed, I’ll head down to the Jersey shore, sometimes for just a couple of hours. As I breathe in the salty air, I can literally feel the anxiety ebb. As I watch the birds play in the surf, all my cares are lifted. When I walk down the pier into Barnegat Bay, I’m in a different place … and it carries over for days and weeks.
And there is always the bonus of the best sausage and peppers sandwiches in the world!
Where is your special place?
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Get up in the morning and have a song of praise in your heart.