I planted flowers, washed the entrance to the front door and invited guests over two weeks in a row… I think I must be finally coming to terms with life in New Jersey.
I have always had an aversion to the suburbs since my family moved here more than 30 years ago.
Having never managed to establish any kind of a connection to anyone from my high school years, our old neighborhood, to me, has been nothing more than a place that is full of miserable memories of a lonely existence. Actually, the only happy times I can recall from my life in this country were those I spent in Philadelphia, while I was going to college; I was a ‘social butterfly’ and thrived in the young and vibrant college community where we were all just starting out. After college, I moved to Turkey and with working and starting a family, it became quite a challenge to keep in touch; I am left with few friends from those days who are scattered around a 100 mile radius of where I live today.
I spent more than twenty years living in Turkey, visiting my parents’ home in New Jersey every summer with my family. Those summers would be spent hanging out by the pool, driving the boys back and forth to various camps and working. My parents were too busy with their own lives to bother and get to know any of their neighbors from their ‘new’ neighborhood of the past 17 years, so we basically kept to ourselves.
When I was managing my business from Turkey, I would come and stay in my parents’ home several times a year while they were away; I would be here for about two weeks and dread coming home every night to a dark and lonely place that always made me feel like an interloper. I couldn’t help but create scenarios into the wee hours of the morning of something terrible happening to me in the middle of the night… how no one would know…no one would come by to check and see if I was OK… no one would find me until my parents came back…
Those were very, very cold and bleak times… and it was with these dreaded feelings that I moved back to Freehold, so my son could go to high school here. I already had a rental real estate business that I was managing from Turkey with trimonthly visits for years and it was no major adjustment to start to go into the actual building everyday and do the same thing. When I had to move back to New Jersey, unexpectedly in the middle of October, I just packed two bags, flew over and started living my life here. Since we had decided to live with my parents’ in their sprawling home, I woke up the next day, enrolled my son in the public high school in our neighborhood, bought a car, signed us up at the local YMCA and was an immediate resident of Freehold.
Unfortunately, none of these things changed our non-existent status within the community. After about 3 months, we still didn’t know any of our neighbors and I had started to live exactly like my parents; all I did was to go back and forth to work, come home, have dinner, watch a little tv and go to bed. Weekends were no different, since we were a crowd onto ourselves, there was always something going on in the house and we didn’t seem to have the need or the time for anyone outside of our family circle. This did not make me happy in the least. I felt a need for some kind of a connection from the surrounding community, non was forthcoming and I was too timid to go and knock on their doors.
At this point, I didn’t feel a sense of belonging anywhere and just went through the motions of taking care of our daily lives. It felt like an erratic period that I was waiting to come to an end. I lived in a house I only related to in terms of my sleeping and eating quarters; as long as it was passably clean, I couldn’t care less about the order of my domicile.
New York was my only sanctuary during this indeterminate period but that was another city where I was just a passerby. I took an art history class one night a week with the hope that this would be the beginning of my career as a student in a New York Art School which, in fact, ended up having the most beneficial outcome of introducing the idea of going back to school at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. I applied, got accepted and was invited to tea in the home of the dean of the women’s college. All of a sudden, I found myself with a community waiting to welcome me into their midst… in my own backyard.
I don’t know how it happened exactly, but something changed in the three weeks in June I spent only with my son in the house. I got this undeniable urge to plant the flowers that were sitting on the porch, wilting away… of course once I started, I couldn’t stop with just that. Then I had to do something about the huge planters outside of our front door that were filled with weeds… and I had to make sure that there were hoses and nozzles in place to water the plants in the front and the back of the house, everyday… and clean out the mess we had accumulated on our front entrance.
I invited an old friend over one Sunday for lunch and knocked on the door of my nearby neighbors and invited them over the next Friday for dinner… We exchanged stories and phone numbers well into the night. The next day, as I sat on the porch, in my favorite spot (I even had a favorite spot now) I felt totally at peace and happy for the first time in months. I felt a connection with my surroundings…
Right before we left for our summer vacation in Turkey, I found someone to water my plants while we will be away. The call from my next door neighbor just before I left, wishing me a nice trip was so nice to receive and now I have someone who knows I will be away and is looking forward to my return. I am thrilled to be vacationing in Turkey with my family but the idea of returning back to New Jersey is starting to look appealing for the first time. I wonder if this is due to going back to school or a newfound acceptance of my life as it is. Whatever it may be, it is such a refreshing change I am ecstatic about…