Philly Girl in Jersey...Part 3

Part three...conclusion, or is it?

Two years after Bridget moved in with her son, daughter Chrissie became engaged, married and moved out to begin a new family life. The household was reduced to niece Bridget and her son Sean and my husband and I. We were comfortable and complacent with the way things were for a while, two more years to be exact. During that time Theresa moved back in again, temporarily, while she waited to settle on a condo purchase, in Washington Township, New Jersey. Her condo was not much more than a mile as the crow flies from our house. Theresa then also had to become an official Jersey girl, but she wasn’t feeling the same mournful resignation her sister felt. Theresa embraced her new status and fully immersed her existence as a New Jersey resident, with a job in Jersey, continuing her education and getting her masters at a Jersey college and eventually she married a Jersey Boy, named Steve, but affectionately called ‘Goon’. All that can be said about that moniker is this; the name applies at the most opportune moments. We love him, nonetheless.

In the meantime one of Bridget’s and Theresa’s younger sisters, Lindsay, had a steady boyfriend named Alex who lived in Glassboro, Lindsay lived in Hatfield in Montgomery county but also started out in Philly, just like the rest of us. Lindsay’s weekends were spent over Alex’s house here in NJ while she kept her residence in PA. She finished her college education, in Philly, got a job close to her home in Hatfield, PA, but travelled every weekend to NJ. Soon after her engagement to Alex he surprised her by buying a townhouse in NJ. Lindsay rushed to get a job with a NJ school but for more than a few months really had a hard time adjusting to living in NJ on a full time basis. She was homesick for her parents. Living in New Jersey 7 days a week did not hold the same charm as traveling back and forth every weekend to spend time with her boyfriend and his family.

Like her sisters before her, she officially became a Jersey girl, not from New Jersey. Lindsay has found more things to like than not about living in NJ, like her starting life on her own and romantic memories of her meeting her future husband and his wedding proposal. A little more important though is the comfort of having her two older sisters close by. 

Soon after Bridget became engaged and married, Mike and I again planned to downsize, placed the house on the market and found a townhouse in Mullica Hill. I tried valiantly to shop the Philadelphia real estate market, but it just wasn’t happening. I like Mullica Hill, it’s artsy and somewhat unpretentious, I could see me living in Mullica Hill. At this point in the lives of my troop of kids, everyone seemed to have their own course charted and their own home base. We were ready, but the universe again had other plans.

All the plans for selling the old house and buying a new smaller house fell apart in sequence. Things have a way of working out for you when you think it’s all going against you.

Fast forward and the downsize plans were quickly snuffed by the crashing real estate market and a serious need for my oldest granddaughter to attend a better school system.

That’s right, we are full up again in a multi generation household with my eldest daughter Kate, her husband Scot and their two daughters, Tayler the Timid Teenager and Meghan, aka, Todzilla the Tyrant. The thoughts of living through teenage years again don’t make me shudder half as much as life with Todzilla; we don’t call her Todzilla because she’s a peach of a child. Even now, at six years of age, the name aptly applies, in most situations.

Tayler, the Timid Teenager now refers to herself as a Township girl, certainly not a Jersey girl, “that would be tacky”, she says. We live in Washington Township, a” Premiere Community”, the water tower on Delsea Drive says so, therefore, she is a ‘Township girl’. Tayler’s still at that stage where her world is only as big as her day at the shore, her bus ride to school and her Facebook posts of cliché sayings and quotes that she finds on Google and posts them as though it’s her own words, sharing her pseudo sageness with her fellow Facebook compadres. It’s fun to watch.

Meghan the Todzilla is a pint sized six year old with a behemoth temper and a stupid stubborn streak that often tests your humanity. She is a master at testing your patience or resolve and can set you off to a point where you almost fail to remember she is a child, a very small child and you are the adult, supposedly in charge of your own self control. I often tell my daughter she doesn’t ever have to worry about any abduction of Meghan. Twenty minutes, tops, and the kidnappers will eagerly and urgently return her. I guarantee it. She has that kind of power. She’s all piss and vinegar, lots of vinegar. She has her warm and fuzzy moments, just not enough of them to help contradict the nickname. She’s actually kind of proud of the nickname.

So here I am, still a Philly girl but living a Jersey life. There are things I like about living in New Jersey, I like my grassy lawn and appreciate it even more as long as I can afford to pay someone else to maintain it. I like having a drive way and not having to jockey for a parking space after a long day at work and. I like that a lot. I like the big swimming pool on my own backyard. I like the schools. I like my neighbors and most of them are Philly transplants. I like shopping for fresh produce at a Jersey farm. I like being able to watch shooting stars from my back yard in the middle of the night. It’s a free show from the universe and a gentle reminder that it can be really nice.

There are some things I will always miss since not living in the city. I miss people walking with a purpose other than exercise or walking the dog. No one walks from their house to the store like WaWa or even Starbucks. There is a sports field complex within my development where ball games are played. Folks that live within our development still drive to that field! It can’t be the miles, because there isn’t a road that’s a mile long within our development. Yet they will walk or jog the development for exercise but drive to watch their kid play soccer.

I miss the corner stores like the corner grocery store where as you walked in the door you could smell barrel pickles and that had a small four foot counter squeezed in a corner where you could buy lunch meat or hoagies. Although there’s hardly any around anymore, I miss the corner luncheonette that made only burgers and cheese steaks, but always had a case full of Breyer’s ice cream that could be scooped into one of only two different kinds of cones, regular or sugar.

I miss the corner bar. Not any corner bar, but a corner bar that you can walk to and the bartender knows what you’ll probably have to drink and has it half poured as ‘hello’s’ are exchanged and “howYOOdooin’s?”. The corner bar where half the patrons know something personal about you and your family and even though they might know it, it’s nobody else’s business. That’s proprietary information. The corner bar where you can walk to and back home. The corner bar that has a wood shuffle board table, with a well polished shellac surface and just enough wax dust sprinkled to make those metal quoits glide so silent down to the end of the board that the only sound is a light ‘clack’ on another puck. The corner bar that would offer to sponsor your softball team for the season, not just because of the business generated after the games, o.k., maybe that had something to do with it, but it really was a neighborly and community gesture that reinforced a sense of belonging to something specific to our community identity as neighbors and friends. I miss the corner bar a lot, especially in the summer. It’s the meeting with no agenda needed.

From the looks of the family that have settled in and around me in New Jersey, that is where I’ll be for as long as the universe allows. With the grown kids and their kids we have quite a comfortable network of family connected by our initial relocations of home base. I have become the accidental Matriarch of this collection of new Jerseyites. Being that matriarch isn’t something I planned or even assigned to myself, it just seemed to work out that way.

It’s not perfect. In fact, there are days when I deliberately stay later at work so I don’t have to hear the noise that is my home life, a life I claim I didn’t sign up for. The reward comes with little unexpected gestures, like after a particularly bad day, the teenager who ‘hates her life’, puts her head on my shoulder as she passes by me and says, “I love you, Grammy.” Or once in a while even Todzilla comes through for me and squeaks out, “You’re the bessstt”. It’s not perfect, but it’s what we do and where we are, in New Jersey.

(Note: This story came right from the heart and each of the characters had something to contribute. A tighter version of these 3 parts appears in Tall Tales and Short Stories from South Jersey, found here