My lobster-plated Subaru crawls through a sea of butter-colored license plates, bumper-to-bumper on the northern reaches of the Garden State Parkway. Even were there no other outward signs (there are), the traffic alone screams, “You’re a long way from Maine.”
Still, our trip to see my family in New Jersey was, as always, a blessing to my heart. Tim and I were there for Mother’s Day and the week following, spending lots of time with my parents and siblings, meeting up with friends, and driving around to see what’s changed in our shared birthplace since last time we visited.
We ate at our favorite restaurants and devoured most of the foods on our “Miss It” List. We even brought some of them home to Maine in cooler packs with dry ice. Trenton Porkroll. Bordentown Bagels. Italian Peoples Bakery rolls. Every hometown has them: the foods you grew up with and can’t get elsewhere. We had our fill and then some.
Part of our ritual includes a visit to the cemetery. Tim’s folks passed away far too young, when our daughter was but a baby. I felt the tug to visit my grandparents’ gravesite but decided to forego it this trip; we were pressed for time. My paternal grandfather would have been 105 years old just a few days after we were there. I was just shy of three when he died, a baby myself. I still have a few, very precious and vividly rendered memories of our times together. My decision weighs heavily on me now that I am once again nearly 600 miles away from my ancestors’ resting places. I feel the spirits of my loved ones around me all the time. So why do I still feel I missed an opportunity to be with them? Irrational, I know, and yet…
We leave New Jersey, as we always do, not without love and concern in our hearts for those we leave behind, but with a lightness of heart that propels us homeward, to our beloved island. The ocean flashes its sparkling Morse code as we cross the Thompson Island bridge: Welcome home.
You can go home again.