Tom and I have lived in quite a few different cities over the years.  I’ll find the prettiest, most flattering pictures I can find of all of our former homes!

Tom has lived in the following places:

Jersey City, NJ

Bronx, NY

Madison, WI

Boston, MA

and finally, Beacon, NY!

I have lived in the following places:

Thunder Bay, ON, Canada

London, England

and Jersey City and Beacon as well.  I’ll spare you the agony of looking at the same pictures of those places once again!

I know that some of these cities are “less desirable” than others, but really you can’t knock a person’s hometown.  A hometown is the place that molds and shapes a being into the person that they become.  The mention of “home” instantly warms the heart, even if that place exists in a different way from how it used to.  Both Tom and I come from rather “unpretentious” hometowns, should we say?  We should also say that the problems that exist on both of our hometowns are “complex.”

We both have warm memories of growing up where we did.  Tom has memories of close-knit urban neighbourhoods, where families knew one another and helped out their fellow neighbours.  He has fond memories of the families of Italian descent that shared delicious food with him.  He remembers playing stickball with a large group of kids in the neighbourhood.  Sadly for him, this place doesn’t really exist anymore.  He does not have any family remaining in Jersey City and few of his friends still live there.  Most of his former neighbours have either passed away or moved.  His old neighbourhood doesn’t seem to have the same spirit that he remembers so fondly.  Houses don’t appear to be maintained like they used to.  There is litter on the streets everywhere.  The population seems to be more nomadic and transient.

Although he doesn’t express any sadness toward this, I feel badly for him that he no longer has a place to “go home to.”  He no longer has that place to go home for Christmas or Thanksgiving or a birthday.   However, I must say, whenever I’ve walked down his childhood street with him, despite the current disrepair of the street, I can see and feel the “ghosts” of the past residents.  I can feel the energy of moms standing on the front steps, calling their children in for dinner.  I can sense next door neighbours talking to one another in front of the houses.  I guess that brief flash I get is a result of all of the happy stories that Tom, his family and friends have shared with me over the years.  I think that he loves to share these stories because really, the stories are now his main connection to this place.

With Thunder Bay, my memories are fond because growing up, everyone I needed and loved was all safe and sound in the same town as me.  Everyone was there.  Holidays were spent with the entire family, because we were all there.  I could see anyone I liked in an instant.  Friends would call, and it wouldn’t be long distance.  The call would almost always end with, “Why don’t we just get together for a coffee?” and we could.  Unfortunately, this wasn’t meant to last.  Opportunities for a lucrative career didn’t always exist in Thunder Bay like they once had.  People had to leave.  I had to leave.

When I return for visits, it’s the same, but so different.  My dad still lives in my childhood home.  The house looks the same, but it’s not.  My mother used to be waiting for me, but she’s no longer there (my mom died several years ago, while I was still living in England).  Christmases at home have changed because my family structure has changed.  That’s only natural.   Grandparents have died, my mom died, but I now have my beloved niece and nephew.   I still get to see my cousins, and they too have their own beautiful families.  I still have friends in Thunder Bay, but many no longer live there and when we’re all home (usually at Christmas) seeing them requires some very strategic planning!  🙂

But I am grateful to still have a “home” to return to.  Where my dad still welcomes me with open arms.  Nothing tugs on my heartstrings, quite like the thought of “home.”  What’s funny about having lived in a few different places, is that you then have many different places that you call “home” for different reasons.  Thunder Bay isn’t my only home, nor is Beacon.  I also consider London to be my home.  Joni Mitchell once said “Los Angeles is where I work, but Vancouver is my heartbeat.”  I think that’s a beautiful and accurate quote.

I am fortunate to be able to go to Thunder Bay a few times a year.  I also am able to return to London every couple of years (I could do this much more often, but time, money…you know how it is!).  And although I didn’t particularly enjoy living in Jersey City, I regard it fondly because it was the place where Tom and I started out our married life together (he moved back there, just before we got together, for a teaching job) .  We fixed up our little apartment and built our relationship in Jersey City.  I do enjoy the occasional visit back to Jersey City because of the memories that I have and those that Tom has.

Tom works in the Bronx and gets to explore it on a regular basis.  He also gets to visit Boston often enough.  However, he hasn’t been back to Madison in twenty one years!  So guess what we’re doing in July?  That’s right!  We’re going to Madison!  He has been so very excited to be going back to the place that he once called “home.”  And I am so excited to see him in his old stomping grounds!  And ohhhhhh the road trip I have planned, is going to be the road trip to end all road trips!!!  I can hardly wait to share all of the crazy details with you guys!!!  Until then, though, take care and think of “home.”  Wherever that may be!