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Rusted Roots.

Something unusual happened during my weekend trip to New Jersey – unlike the last several times I visited, I actually wanted to engage in my surroundings and not just hole up at my parent’s farm and attend whatever I’m in town to attend, quickly and painlessly. This time, I was intrigued by the idea of visiting my past. I didn’t do anything too crazy this time around, but the idea was there. It makes me wonder what I’ll do next time.

Sometimes it’s too hard to come home again. New Jersey and I have had a love/hate relationship for a few years now. Love or hate – it’s still a strong emotion. It’s not like Delaware…which I just feel indifferent to. I either crave Jersey or I’m allergic to it. Sometimes literally. Since I’ve finally found a “home” feeling in Northampton, it’s mostly been a Jersey allergy for two years now. It’s not something I’m proud of but I just really love the lifestyle I found outside of the Garden State. Add Scarlet to the mix and the fact that she’s not always been great on car trips, Jersey has been something I do to get it over with. I don’t want it to be that way. However during this new trip, everything was so sweet.

Scarlet slept, sang and danced during the drive down. Once I got there, I fully let go for the first time since July and let my parents and even my parent’s very awesome friends watch her for me while I read, showered, ate, etc. It was WONDERFUL. And they have two dogs and one is the size of a moose. And I was ok. Before Friday, I had not let her out of my sight or Cassidy’s sight since the accident, at least not for more than 20 minutes. It felt right.

Then I willingly and excitedly went out to meet my sister at a local bar. And not only that, it was this place where everyone hung out back in the day. And I didn’t. I was seriously more interested in bowling or watching movie marathons while my peers were out drinking around a bonfire. I had never been to this popular hangout. Never! That’s like one of the Saved by the Bell kids never going to The Max, or one of the 90210 kids never going to the Peach Pit after Dark.

To get there, I went through my old town and past my old high school. I think it’s been years since I’ve done that. I noticed all of the new businesses and wondered about a few of the old ones that I couldn’t find. I passed a pizzeria I worked in ten years ago and I yearned to walk in and see if anyone I knew was still there. I didn’t go in because I wasn’t ready to open up my history. I came closer than I have in years, though. I don’t know what I was more afraid of – that a bunch of unfamiliar people would look blankly at me and I’d instantly feel old…or that I would see my old co-workers, preserved in time behind that hot pizza stove.

On Saturday, we threw my sister-in-law a rockin’ baby shower and I carpooled with my mom. We did a lot of driving together and she and her GPS had to gently remind me of where to turn and where to go. I have an excellent memory and I used to deliver pizza. I once memorized a map of Morris County. I’m just…rusty. It’s baby steps back into my past. We passed a road I used to take to my childhood home and I could have turned left to see my old house, but I didn’t. Baby steps.

Two years ago, just before I left San Francisco and just before I got pregnant, I was in limbo and I was homeless (in the emotional sense) and I went back to Jersey for two and a half weeks to just drink it in. I was craving it. I wanted to drive to all of my old haunts and see the friends I still keep in touch with. I wanted my old favorite foods and to see my old homes. It was a great, healing trip, but I have never been able to look at Jersey as fondly as I could during that trip just because I fell so in love with New England. I’ve been building a new life here. And my time is compromised from being a mom and it’s not as easy as it used to be just to jump in the car. Now I worry about baby fevers and exhaustion and my job and gas money. So I don’t fault Jersey so much for me not wanting to be there. I just don’t have the resources to examine it as closely as I want to.

And I’m scared too. It’s a state full of old boyfriends and old friends and really great times as well as really hard times. It’s messy. Even if I had the time, money and childcare to spend some meaningful time in New Jersey, there are some parts of the past I have locked up tight and I’m just not quite ready to unlock all of it.

It was like I was there..but not really there. Does that make sense? I felt like I was in “A Christmas Carol” and passing through my hometown like a ghost. I was looking through fogged up windows at my old life, but not stepping into the warm buildings. I stayed outside in the cold.

No one saw me but I was there.

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