As I mentioned, we headed up to Connecticut to attend the wedding reception of friends of ours (they’d actually gotten married in September in Germany; needless to say we didn’t make it to that event). Driving from DC to CT means lots of time spent on 1-95. And at least a couple hours (depending on traffic) in New Jersey. Many people despise the Garden State, but once I’ve crossed the Delaware Memorial Bridge, I invariably have a sense of homecoming.
It’s been half my life since I lived in Jersey, and yet it is oh-so-familiar. Driving back yesterday we skipped the nightmare of merging that is called crossing through the Bronx and over the George Washington Bridge so as to avoid the Turnpike as the Giants were playing at home (number of NFL teams whose schedules we needed to check for traffic purposes in order to make the drive home? 5: Giants, Jets, Eagles, Ravens & Redskins. Number of teams that interfered with traffic for us? 0. Score!!). So we took the Tappan Zee across the Hudson upriver from the Metropolis (on a beautifully clear day, might I add, which is a bonus in and of itself), zoomed over to the Garden State Parkway, and headed down that way. Those in the car (K. and some friends) started the Jersey jokes… “What exit” and the like, but sure enough, there was my exit, and I could see the town square where the old post office is across the street from the town hall where I saw Ronald Reagan when he came to my town when I was in first grade (I went — we had the day off from school. I don’t remember a word he said and we played pick-up sticks).
We were now on the route we took every Saturday morning from the time I was ten until we moved away 6 years later — from our house further out in the burbs to that old exit to visit our piano and voice teacher. K. mentioned it was time for a toll (every 8 miles!) and I knew that toll booth well. Got a little nostalgic to see that tokens are being phased out and will be obsolete by 2009!
Suddenly we were heading into Pennsylvania and I recalled the car rides to go visit family in Bucks County and Philadelphia. Realized we were on Roosevelt Boulevard and told the group in the car to hope the Nabisco factory was baking that day so the air would smell like Nilla Wafers. It wasn’t, and is now a Kraft Foods plant, but my timing was spot on, and there it was, just like forever ago when my brother and I would be getting antsy from the car ride and ready to get out and greet our aunts, uncles and cousins.
Next we headed into South Philly for lunch and I was brought reminded of recent years of visiting my dear friend B, who lived only a few blocks from Pat’s and Geno’s institutions for cheesesteaks. This part was K’s nostalgia, who used to hit up Pat’s for a “Wiz with” (I prefer Provolone) a few times a week while in college close by.
Back in the car it seemed like no time at all before we were heading past Baltimore, which will hold its own memories for us as the years go by. Many a weekend and holiday spent sailing, many more we hope to have.
Later, glad to be back in my home in DC, I reflected on how it is that so much of my life can be revisited in a car ride, and how much can’t — interludes in the mid-west, in Western NY, overseas…and who knows where else in the future!