I love the soothing rhythm of my front-porch rocking chair.  My winged friends are wound up this evening, but the mocking birds are strangely silent.  Usually it’s all I hear – the incessant twitter of a dozen different calls from the show-offs of the neighborhood.  I wonder where they are.

The new boxwoods that line the front of the porch are showing light green growth, and the St. John’s Wort bushes are joyously presenting hundreds of tiny yellow flowers.  My Pee Gee Hydrangea tree is filled with white blooms, and I am a happy gardener.

I have an upcoming trip to Indiana with my children that’s making me feel a little apprehensive.  It’s out of obligation and guilt that I chose to go; I had the fortune to skip last year since my parents both came here for my daughter’s graduation, giving me a reasonable excuse.  But with every passing year, they grow older, as do I, and I feel like I’ve abandoned them to live out their last years with only my sister’s company, and she has not been well for quite some time.

My family’s dysfunction pushed me away as soon as I was old enough to go.  I suppose all families have their shit to shovel – I’m not so unique in that regard.  But going back is so fucking painful.  I appreciate the opportunity for my kids to know their grandparents, but as for me, I would be fine never to return again.

At this point in my life, I am grateful for the Midwestern values and kindheartedness with which I was raised.  The community was poor but loving and giving all the same.  It wasn’t like it is here in New Jersey – or maybe I was just sheltered from all the assholes.  And I have come to learn that not everyone in New Jersey is an asshole (and most of them came from New York), but there is a high percentage of them, and it’s enough to sour a person on the state completely.

Thankfully, I have found enough things to love about this state that I don’t really give a fuck about the assholes anymore.

Anyway… it’s always stressful to return to my origins.  My mother will talk about her inevitable death as she tries to send me home with junk so I won’t have to sort it later.  She’ll tiptoe around my sister and her issues and act like nothing is out of the ordinary while we all sit uncomfortably in a cramped room watching my niece recite commercials and bounce around like a pinball.  My father will talk about the weather and his home projects, which, these days is a welcome reprieve from the subject of my sister.  We might be able to talk him into making us fried pickles and going boating with us.  My son is looking forward to fishing with “the smartest man he’s ever met.”  Dad’s the smartest man I’ve ever met, too.  At least in certain areas – like the woods and engineering and music and art.

But I will marvel at the kindness of complete strangers and the old-fashioned manners that have become a distant memory.  My language will revert to the sweet-sounding southern Indiana dialect of my relatives.  I will enjoy the musical talent of my father, I will love my mother, and some part of me will feel like I’m home.  At least until I can’t wait to leave.

Thank god tomorrow is Chest Day.  There are some very lovely things about the state of New Jersey.

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