We’ve all heard the expression “Home is where the heart is”. That generally means that home is any place where your most beloved family members reside with you (like a husband and children). But I’m sure many of you have moved around in your country. Perhaps even moved to another country? You think “Where was I born? Is that place where I consider my original home?” Come to think of it, when someone asks you where you’re originally from, do you say the state/city you grew up in? Or do you say the state/city you lived in that really felt like a true home? I think it varies by person.
I first grew up in eastern Pennsylvanian, and then the middle of New Jersey in the USA, but I’ve also traveled to many other parts of the states, lived for two years in the Bay Area in California in my 20s, and traveled to and lived in various countries around the world. All of these places had wonderful aspects to them. Obviously some more than others. But when people ask where I’m originally from, I have a specific town in New Jersey that comes to mind. It’s the town I lived in for most of my youth, and the town where my parents and siblings still live.
I now live in a different town in a similar part of New Jersey. I do say I’m from this town, but usually also mention my childhood town. My accent is from my childhood home, and many ways I act are molded from there. You might ask “From just 14 miles away?” “Well, yes”, I’d say. I wonder if anyone else can identify with that? I imagine so. After all, people from Brooklyn, New York often have a different accent, customs, and special memories that differ from those from Manhattan. And they are even closer to each other.
Of course my current home has some major similarities to my childhood home. We are, after all, central New Jerseyans. Then why is it that when I visit my dad I feel most a part of that town?
My childhood home has a large river that forms its western border, and a canal that runs through it. Both have played an important role in the town’s past history and industry. It is also the reason for the annual festival that takes place there each year. We’re a partying bunch! I kind of think of myself as a “River Girl”. Or maybe also a “Canal Gal”. [Yeh, that’s corny!] The churches also have a prominent place in the town. Locals gather at church each week. Sometimes daily, in the case of the Catholic Church. There are also lots of hangouts for locals. Tourists usually hang out elsewhere. You know so many of the people who own shops, work in the grocery store, sell the gas, build the local houses, and work the hardware store. You know people everywhere. And if they don’t know me, they definitely know my dad. In fact, my dad has been called “The most well-known man in town”, and strangers have asked if he is the mayor because every other passing car honks to say hello to him. He qualifies as one of the town “characters”. [Dad, if you read this, please forgive me, but it’s true.] When I was a teen, I rarely had to walk home (up the hill) from town. I’d almost always get a lift. When I first got my taxes done by another local character in that town, I reminded him who I was (dad’s daughter) and I got a discount.
Yes, there is a comfort when everyone knows your name, like in the show Cheers. But this is not the case in all parts of New Jersey. The town I live in now is full of people from around the country and around the globe. That’s nice in many ways because of the new diversity, but kind of sad in another. You hardly even know your neighbor sometimes. I suppose you might tell me to move back to my childhood home. I suppose I would under different circumstances, but my current town has some very positive attributes as well, and my husband loves it here. But, at least I am close enough to my childhood home that it’s within daily reach. I guess I have the best of both worlds. I’ve got my figurative passport back to my childhood home with me all of the time. No visa is ever required. I have dual citizenship. Yes, maybe you can take me out of my childhood home town, but you can’t take my childhood hometown out of me.
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