Snapshots of "Home"

Connecticut ~ July 2011
Lila: AJ, do you think we will stay here forever and ever? / AJ: No. We don't have our house here. Daddy doesn't have his car. We don't even have our Pillow Pets. / Lila: But we have Mommy and Daddy and Lila and AJ and Stella. / AJ: But our house isn't here. / Lila: But we have Mommy and Daddy and ... / AJ: I know Lila!!! You already said that!!!... / Lila: Well, AJ. That's what we love.
Our month-long "vacation" up north (vacation in quotations because Ang and I both worked during our stay... and the house we rented might not necessarily qualify as a "vacation" house...) had me thinking long and hard about what home truly is. Is it primarily a location, like the town we grew up in? Is it bricks and mortar? Is it a state of mind? Does it solely exist in memories? Or is it simply where one lives? I had no idea we would all come to the very same conclusion by the end of our trip. All five of us. (And yes, that's including Stella, our neurotic, furry, blonde family member... the #1 reason why we traipsed over 1,300 miles via my 2003 grocery getter to arrive at our final destination: The one and only Connecticut.

I - 9 5
We're halfway there and holy Hell, I can't believe there exists an entity so evil in this world that it's allowed to be advertised as (gulp) fun... as an actual destination that could be visited from afar for entertainment value. Here is a spot that beckons unsuspecting travelers with billboards along the River Styx that is I-95 in NC to its campus of doom... to the horror that is:
One of the eleventeen billboards heralding our close proximity to the wonder of it all was true: I have never sausage a place. I have no love for this place. In fact, I have no like for this place. I have no empathy, sympathy, nor even mild dislike for this place. But now that I've been there, I can no longer live in a world of indifference for this neon spectacle. I now hate it with all that I have. (I tell Lila and AJ never to utter the word "hate," but I may back down if they ever say something along the lines of: "I very much dislike clowns, sharks, and 'Toddlers & Tiaras', but boy do I hate South of the Border." Yep. I'd vehemently back them up on that one.) Ang had an hour-long conference call commencing at the exact time we reached SOB, and so he got off the exit and took the call in the parking lot, leaving us poor souls to fend for ourselves. "This is how horror movies begin," I thought to myself...
With sinister-looking men lurking around every corner of America's Favorite Highway Oasis, bullet holes in each of the storefront windows, and that feeling that you get when something is seriously wrong (including hair standing up on the back of my neck thanks to the dusty man-person who licked his lips and tooth as I walked by), I simply couldn't hang. I collected the kids, their cheesy plastic arcade "wins," and their dripping ice cream cones, and flip-flop-sprinted back to the car, muttering things along the lines of, "...seventh circle of Hell" and "...must get number for Criminal Minds location advisor." (As an aside, Lila and AJ had a blast. They happily slurped up the rest of their melted confections as I lusted for a strong drink, a shower, and maybe some mace. And a Bible.)

Other than frollicking in Lucifer's playground, our trip up was rather uneventful...

h y d e   p a r k , n y
We visited with my family in NY for a few days for my niece's graduation. It was wonderful......

Kirstie receives her diploma ~ June 25, 2011

Franklin Delano Roosevelt H.S. closes its doors for the summer, leaving the high school spirits of Kirstie,
Patty, and Jenny to dance arm-in-arm within its hallowed halls... (Truth: I cried a lil bit when I snapped
this shot.)

AJ and Lila enjoying a cool Hudson Valley summer afternoon in Nona and Papa's backyard
k i r s t i e ' s   g r a d u a t i o n   p a r t y

AJ trying his darndest to get the ball over the net. (I think his success rate was about 3%, but his sheer
will and determination throughout Kirstie's graduation shindig was inescapable.)

Their addiction to cupcakes is quite sad, really.

...not giving up on the dream.
This sweaty, grass-stained monkey was the happiest I've ever seen her.

Style: 10   Effort: 10   Score: sadly, still zip

Kirstie's boyfriend Andrew was wonderful with the kids and gets a solid 10 from me...

...though, ultimately, it's Andrew's perfect score (Kirstie!) that really counts.

(No caption necessary.)

Happy Daughter, Proud Mommy

"I loved today" ~ Lila, 6/25/11

Cousin Couch
The Graduate (off to U Del in just a few weeks...)
And talking about "back home," one of my favorite towns ever is just up the street from my hometown. A place I've played in, worked in, and grew to love all things picturesque in:

From Hyde Park, we headed an hour-and-a-half east to Westport, CT, where we had secured a tiny abode for our July rental. Emphasis on tiny. Though perfect in size for the likes of three of us (two being small people and one a very short non-human), Ang and I were left stooping through doorways, sharing a queen-sized bed with said small people most mornings, and maneuvering our adult frames just so in the shower in order to get the most out of the meager jet stream aimed directly at our sternums. We wondered if people in 1940 were shorter or if, rather, tall people back then required special contractors. We started calling it The Dollhouse. But, it did the trick. We had a home to call our own for a month in beautiful Westport...

w e s t p o r t
Ang and I have never lived in Westport, nor have we ever worked there. I, myself, have lived in six different towns in Connecticut, and I've worked in just as many. Though it's never been our "home," per se, Westport has always been a place we feel at home. Its sparkling grey-blue shorelines dotted with beautiful rambling homes and bright green lawns make it a picture-perfect New England town. The salty air, cosmopolitan shops, varied and impressive architecture, endless outdoor events, close proximity to THE city... I love most everything about it. (Westport's mojo seriously needs to take its gas prices and traffic out for drinks, however, and tell them to chill out.) Our kids love it, too:

Lila kind of unabashedly owned Main Street...

Norwalk, Fairfield Beach, Saugatuck Island, Easton, Oxford, Mystic Seaport, Stratford, Chappaqua, Milford...

Our stay up north was everything I ever knew and yet nothing I could possibly have ever planned for. We left our Florida home for a month to "go back home" and then usurp someone else's home in a town where we feel at home.

On our 21-hour ride home (to Florida, that is), I pondered many things...

I wondered if other people have mystifying associations like the one I have with Softsoap and a prison drama. (Our Crisp Cucumber and Melon hand soap never fails to remind me of Law & Order actor Christopher Meloni, who also played the character Chris Keller in HBO's long-running show "Oz." Softsoap --> heavily tattooed bisexual criminal. There.)

I thought about the IMAX movie I saw with the kids at the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, "Born to be Wild", and the part where it was noted that elephants need to be happy to live. I cried during the scene when the big elephant family accepted the little ones as their own and showered them with red dirt and trunk hugs. Damn, I love those IMAX movies.

I thought about how I pick out beach towels. I always go for the oldest ones. The softest. The best quality. The ones that I have a history with and, though they may be faded around the edges, have given me the most comfort through the years. And how weird it is that favorite faded beach towels and the dearest of friends have so much in common! I thought back on the time we had just spent with our favorite beach towels... people who give us more comfort than they'll probably ever know. The ones we consistently reach for when we need a soft place to land. (Reminder: This was a 21-hour ride, folks. I just may have gone the teensiest bit of crazy. Meh. The beach towel metaphor got me through quite a few monotonous miles, at least a bit more than the prison-Softsoap deal.)

I thought about home and how I had been wondering where, exactly, it was. And I know, with certainty now, that it has been with us all along.

It is not down in any map; true places never are ~ Herman Melville

Happy Tuesday!


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