After living in a big old house in the northeastern Pennsylvania countryside for 32 years (also known as my whole life), my parents are moving to Audubon, New Jersey to be closer to family and civilization and to take on a more manageable property. This is a really good thing for them. Nonetheless, all this goodness didn’t stop me from bursting into tears this past weekend when my Dad picked me up at the Philly airport and told me they’d finally gotten an offer on the old house.
We drove onward to the new house and I tried not to think about how homeless it feels sometimes when the place where you yourself live (Florida) doesn’t feel like home, and the place you grew up in no longer exists in any practical form. We took the Walt Whitman bridge into New Jersey, which cheered me up, because I’ve always liked the views of Philly, and also because you have to love a bridge a whole bunch of idiots got all mad about because it was named after a gay man. Morons. (Scorn helps to temper homesickness.)
When we got to the new house there were bunnies in the yard eyeing the lettuce in the garden, which further cheered me up (because of Peter Rabbit, of course). Feeling soporific from my travels, I took a nap, waking up now and then to the clicking and whirring noise of my Dad mowing the lawn with the manual lawn mower (the kind that doesn’t have a motor). Or to the smell of my Mom cooking sausages for the spaghetti. Or to classical music blaring on NPR, or to the sound of my Dad sneezing (generally guaranteed to wake the entire neighborhood). It was oddly peaceful. How nice that the yard is small enough now that Dad can use that kind of mower, and mow the whole lawn in a couple hours. How nice that Mom makes phenomenal spaghetti in this house, too, and NPR is screaming as usual.
We went into town– and how cute the town is, and all the neighboring towns, too! And how convenient everything is– no more driving 10 miles just to get to the grocery store. And most of all, how Italian (by which I mean, how familiar) everything is: Cipolli Cannoli, for example, and Luigi & Tony Tailors. And an Irish contingent, too– also familiar and comforting. I even felt a little (granted, probably temporary) tolerance for the evidence of Notre Dame fanaticism. This place isn’t so different from the PA homestead.
We bought a table at an antique store and lugged it down the street to the car. How nice to see my parents buying the things they want, instead of putting all the money away to pay to send us to school! My parents joked about their plans for the house and the little garden (about a tenth the size of the old garden, but still, it’s a real, live garden). “We should put up parking meters outside the house,” Dad said. “And require passersby to pay a toll to use the sidewalk,” I said. And maybe a lighthouse in the yard, to make the place truly welcoming?
The new house is beautiful, perfect for their needs, and the area has character and charm. And family— I saw so many wonderful aunts and uncles and friends this weekend, and saw them so easily, no long and winding drive from northeastern PA to get to them. The new house has a good aura, a good spirit, and honestly? It took about 4 hours for it to start to feel like home to me.
Today I’m back in Florida, finding that I kind of can’t bear to think too hard about certain kinds of change.
But for now, I know that home still exists. Home is wherever I can hear Dad’s sneeze and smell Mom cooking sausages.