As I’ve mentioned, I recently traveled home to NEPA (that’s Northest PA to youse) to deal with a family crisis. (Don’t worry, I’m fine, thanks for asking.) Beyond that, though, it WAS good to get back. Admittedly I do not get back there enough. It’s rarely easy or affordable. But once I am there, I am reminded of so much. I often forget.
I’ve come a long way, baby.
I brought Boulder’s Chocolove bars for my high school BFF, who may or may not share (I did see her put them in her cupboard so … probably not, NEPA. Sorry.) I got famous Old Forge pizza in trade. That is one thing I definitely miss — the pizza (and the scampi, oh! the scampi). Nom nom nom. I’d probably be fat if I lived in NEPA, the Italian food is SO GOOD.
Also a benefit of going home: Seeing my BFF’s girls. Talk about Mini Me BFFs! I love them. To them I must be like Santa Claus — I show up once a year (or more like every three years) bearing presents like Chocolate Rock Candy from the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. Becky is a great mother, they are great kids, and they love to give hugs. Can’t be beat! They were my heart during this recent trip, making me miss The Kid less a little (and a little more) with each hug, each homework question, each story they wanted to hear about my life back in the mysterious, faraway land of Colorado. Since I yet to have my own nieces or nephews, these are my adopted kin upon whom I dote and indulge. I am currently trying to convince their mama to send them both out here for a Little Girls Camp at Auntie Mel’s. It would be AWESOME.
Since this was Halloween weekend, we got down to business — my first time carving pumpkins with other adults. Very fun. The BFF and girls made chocolate lollipops while the BFF’s boyfriend, Billy, also a longtime friend of mine —- crazy how friends in NEPA coupled off in the years I have been gone! —- got to the messy business of carving. Amazing to think that people I knew when we was 12-14 years old I am now having adult conversations and doing very domesticated things with.
Newsflash: We’re old! Holy crap!
Almost every day, I drove an hour to where my father’s family is from, where he grew up, and is now some very serious trouble. I do not have good memories here, however the area itself is so very pretty. Mennonite country. Christmas tree farms. Covered bridges. Never get tired of driving over these.
A giant snowstorm, first of the season, chased me out of Colorado and found me in NEPA two days later. Everyone had a clever comment about this, which by Day Four this out of state guest could no longer fake the amusement about bringing October snow, a pretty common thing in Colorado, to PA.
NEPA, I apologize. Can we move on now?
My brother Tom is dating this beauty. Alli is a bossy big sister’s dream. I told Tom he better not mess up. Her parents were wonderful, as well, opening their pretty home to my Mom and Kid Sister. (Half sister if you must know. Fun fact: There is a bigger age difference between me and the Kid Sister than me and Mom. I like to joke that when I was growing up I would ask Mom for a little sister I should have been more specific about having a little sister to grow up with instead of having one many states away. CRAZY BONES.)
The Kid Sister is so a Mini Mom, right?
Who do you think of when you hear “family”? This is my family. My brother and mother. I’m very protective of them and life hasn’t always been kind to them. I’d do anything to make life easier for them. The three of us haven’t been together since the summer of 2003, when I got married. Isn’t that too long?
News flash: We’re old now, too! Holy crap!
East Coast roads are curvy and narrow and beautiful and slightly scary at night, in the rain, in the snow, in the fog … all of which I got to experience.
And check this out …
… my BFF heats her house like a freakin pioneer. In the fall, she buys $300 worth of “rice coal,” a coal truck brings it to her street and funnels into her coal room in her basement of her 90 year old house via a small chute. Becky then shovels it into buckets and carries the bucket ….
… and pours multiple bucket loads of rice coal into the giant blue container. That is pulled and churned into the coal stove by that pipe and laid on the fire …
… and then every so often she has to empty out the ashes from the coal fire. Like a freakin pioneer! Check out this long ago scripty love note written on the basement wall.
Amazing to me that my BFF shovels coal like every four days to heat her house (it does a wonderful job, let me tell you), yet she enjoys such modern ammenities like the Keurig coffeemaker. Which I hope Santa brings me now one.
The BFF took me on a short tour of my hometown, West Pittston, which was heavily flooded this fall. I have happy memories walking along Susquehanna Avenue where historic homes line the banks of the Susquehanna River. Note: I did not live in anything that looks like this. I literally lived on the other side of the tracks. But this avenue is where Mom and I would daydream about homes and better lives and have the best little chats. It was heartbreaking to see these historic beautiful homes gutted, windows blown out and boarded up, trash lining streets, and random object still caught in the tree branches above our heads.
My trip ended with a homecooked meal by the BFF’s boyfriend, Billy. Billy and I worked as teenagers at the local seafood restaurant when we were still young enough to be getting drivers licenses and prom dates. I love that he and Becky are together — my worlds collided and damn it looks good.
Billy, don’t mess up.
Becky’s mom used to slice apples and coat them in a cinnamon sugar mix to give us as an afterschool snack. Then we would go play Barbies. Or have dance parties. Or explore the woods and cliffs behind her childhood home. That last day of my trip Becky started to slice up an apple. Funny how something so simple is so ingrained, so attached to a time and place for me. While going “home” doesn’t have the same connotation for me as it does a lot of people, because honestly there is a lot I have chosen to forget and at one point driving along those curvy roads in the rain trying not to get lost I thought my chest might explode from the mounting stress, anxiety, and anger, there are these quiet, lovely moments that are worth holding on to and worth going back for.