You Can’t Go Home, But You Can Visit

I drove 250 miles this week, Plymouth to Brooklyn, NY. I’ve traveled I-95 and Merritt/Hutchinson/Henry Hudson hundreds of times. Traffic was light, the day bright, and for reasons that aren’t clear, the trek became a walk through my life. Maybe this is what happens when you’re in the second act of your life? My V2 is how I’ve come to think about it.

From grade school, really before I was born, to college, first marriage, children, adult children, my MINI listened to me muse. I’ll reverse the route this weekend to return home, so that’s where I begin. Really. Just to the west, the ferry boats dock with a view of the Statue of Liberty, where my Irish and Polish grandparents arrived, when immigrants were welcome. Just upriver, the Manhattan Bridge–where my grandfather Harry Fitzgerald worked, just out of Columbia University (his side of the family had arrived after the Great Famine). Onto the west side highway, I go past Dyckman Street exit at upper Broadway, home to my Aunt Mollie–who lived out her life in rent-controlled comfort. Hers was the first elevator I ever rode, still with a man in uniform who operated the gate and pushed the buttons.

Shooting from NY into Connecticut, I’m cutting through Norwalk where I had my first ever apartment. And first marriage. Then Westport, my first job writing for the Westport News, predictably not exciting except I met Paul Newman. Wowie.

New Haven rolls by. There, 25 years. Marriage, both daughters born and raised, friends, learning to love the city, Pizza. Divorce and single life. Single after growing up in a large family, college dorms, married. For the first time, figuring out who I was and what I wanted. And also in New Haven, first date with Art, when he drove down from Massachusetts to woo me. Connecticut shoreline. Old Saybrook, where my best friend in middle school invited me to her family’s summer home. And this stunned country, landlocked girl ate her first lobster (wow again), stared out at their neighbor’s (Katharine Hepburn) house and fell in love with beach life.

Then, apologies to RI. Well, there were those fabulous beach days at Misquamicut, my older sister a new driver, and us enjoying new freedoms. Back into Massachusetts. I still call it my new home, though it’s been 14 years. The flash of road signs, thrum of asphalt under wheels and my life flew past. Years and homes and family and friends and firsts.

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