Sunday, July 13, 2008

Summer Vacation

This is actually the second of three vacations we're taking this year. Our first was to Disney, and our third will be to the Pacific Northwest. This one was to the NoFo, oh excuse me, the North Fork of Long Island. When I was a child, my grandmother rented a house out there on the beach and we visited her. I was 13 when my grandmother died (in 1979), so we're talking the mid-1970s. I have few but intense memories: my grandmother always had plums. She loved to go shelling, especially for jingle shells. The house was on Peconic Bay, and the waters were shallow and filled with shells and horseshoe crabs and minnows. We played for hours out on the beach, without sunscreen! We slept on the floor or on the screen porch of the house.

The house we stayed in this past week was much newer and very well-equipped for families. A large pool is the main feature of the yard, but there is a short walk to the beach. An ice cream parlor was a mile's walk away. It was sunny and beautiful all week. All of my sisters came and stayed for at least a day, and my mother even came for an afternoon (normally, she needs to be at home with my bedridden father, but my sister stayed with him, and his 3x week home health care aide came to do clean-up).

We took the ferry from Orient Point back to New London yesterday afternoon. A very nice woman sitting in the next booth complimented us on how nicely our children interacted with each other. The drive from New London is about an hour. As we reached Providence, though, I became teary. Not with joy, but with ... dread? regret? I had a mini-emotional breakdown right there in the car.

Going back to Long Island for vacation then returning to Outside Providence reminded me of how much of myself is a Long Islander at heart. I belong there. I don't belong here in the RI/MA area. On Long Island I have family, and I have history. I have context. Here in RI/MA, I have friends and colleagues, but I also have a kind of existential loneliness. I am living here. I am not *of* here.

We moved from LI in 2000 when our daughter was a year old. We never saw ourselves as Long Islanders. We were wrong.

Now, I don't plan to move back to Long Island. I love my job, and it loves me. I have colleagues I respect and enjoy spending time with. I have friends among the moms and dads in my community. This is the only home my son has really ever known (my daughter has lived in 4 different cities and 5 different homes in her 9 years of life).

But I was surprised at how intensely the loneliness hit as I drove into Providence yesterday. I don't know how to get past it, either. Or if I ever will.


Anonymous said...

Peggy Noonan expressed the view that part of Obama's problem in attracting backing from the middle is that he doesn't appear to be 'from' anywhere:

Wendy said...

All the more reason why academics love him. We all relate to feelings of rootlessness!

I personally think he is "from" Chicago more than anywhere.