After reading a Facebook post from a childhood friend this morning, I decided to check out our old stomping grounds. Boy, how things change. And how they don’t. A quick scan through Google maps reveals a lot of different stores that I don’t remember being there. I’m sure if I looked a little more closely, there would be a lot of new developments too. New houses, new stores, new people – this is my hometown?
But my hometown is just that – somewhere I came from. It’s under no obligation to stay the static place that exits in my memory. That’s actually a silly concept anyway. It was changing the whole time I was growing up. Why should it stop now that I’m gone?
I’m very grateful for New Jersey’s Farmland Preservation Program. It’s guaranteed that some of my hometown will always look the same. Long Valley has always had a large farming community. I grew up with cornfields in my back yard. It’s a little bit of heaven in a state that’s not known for being pretty, despite having the nickname of “The Garden State.” Look at this picture – isn’t it gorgeous?
The farms, the hills, the small town atmosphere made me feel safe, but at the same time they made me long for the city. I’ve always enjoyed spending time in The City, and any other busy, bustling place. The City (aka NYC) was about an hour away; just close enough to escape to. I loved to go there as a kid – to feel like I could be lost in a crowd instead of known practically everywhere.
A few years after we married, my Bestest and I headed up to LV for a visit. We had to get a tire fixed (darned I-95 potholes), so we dropped the car off at the tire place before heading to the dentist’s office where my mother worked. This being the time before cell phones were commonplace, we just gave the dentist’s phone number to the tire dealership so they could call us when it was done. The dealer looked at the number and said “hey, Dr. Gaudio’s office!” Freaked my Bestest out completely – he’s never lived in a small town like that. To me, it was just home. That’s how things worked.
It’s easy to make LV sound so idealistic now that I’m gone. It is, and it isn’t. But in the end, it was a really fantastic place to grow up. I hope my kids remember their hometown as fondly as I do mine.
** Photo courtesy of NJN Public Television and Radio.