We drove route 202 N from Pennsylvania to New Jersey like salmon swimming upstream to return to their place of birth. We had both gone as far as we could from home after finishing high school, attending college in North Carolina and then even moving abroad to work for two years in Japan before finally settling – or so we thought, in PA. Now, thanks to a new job and some sort of magnetic attraction that only fish in the arctic can understand we are back to the state of our youth. Like Al Pacino said in the third Godfather movie, “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.”
Sarcasm aside, I’m very excited to be coming back to the Garden State. The kids are going to grow up with aunts, uncles and their nana nearby in a way that I never had. I even got a little choked up just the other day telling my wife how lonely it was each year to never have grandparents around. Back in elementary school grandparents would spend the day with us each year on Grandparents Day and each year my classmate Sarah would have to share her gramma and grandpa with me. To be honest, I’m pretty jealous of them.
It must have been inspiration from the Olympics that put the idea in my wife’s head. But she convinced herself that we could do a packing marathon and be out of the house in two weeks. If you’ve ever met my wife, you know that when she gets an idea in her head you had better join in or get out of the way. So I signed up for this two-person Iron-Man packing marathon and we were off. The whole experience was a complete blur of packing tape, Sharpie markers and trips to the liquor store for more boxes and the occasional fifth of vodka. Coupled with all the farewell visits, two days to find a house near her new office and a day trip to the shore, we somehow got it all done. In fact, we had two days to spare before her first day at her new job when we pulled into the driveway and unloaded our stuff all over the house.
Being close to family was already paying off. My mother-in-law took the kids for the weekend and we managed to get some unpacking done. We got the kitchen in an acceptable state for making grilled-cheese sandwiches and cereal and got the kids room and a play-area in the living room all set up. With height chairs in place and the sippy cups unpacked the high-priority items were ready.
I can’t recall much of the last few weeks; I don’t remember sleeping all that much and I’m not sure if it makes me a bad parent that for a few days, liquor boxes became the new, exciting toys for the kids. But it’s those salmon I keep thinking of, if they’ve been migrating back home for millennia, it’s probably not such a big deal for us, too.