June 30, 2009

And Then Came the Floods

When I was a kid, we led what one might call a transient life. My mom once did the math. We moved 15 times by the time I was 8.

That's a lot. And it's the kind of pattern that follows you. I've spent most of my life sending out change of address cards.

One day, I looked around what was then my crowded little house in my crowded little New Jersey town and realized that I'd lived in that little house longer than I'd ever lived anywhere. I knew how to get creative with pierogi, and that there really are people who use the word "gravy" to refer to tomato sauce. I talked about "going down the shore" instead of to the beach. I had become, in some sense, a Jersey girl. Without the big hair or the accent.

This was particularly startling because I consider myself a Virginian.

After six years in that house - we beat my previous "stay" record by four years - we moved to Maryland. But that little New Jersey town still feels just a bit like home, probably because no other address before or since ever stuck as long.

And I passed fairly close by it this weekend on my way to Connecticut to see old friends and family. Or, at least, that was my goal. Until I saw several giant, blinking red signs that read: "MAJOR CONGESTION GWB - USE LOCAL."

The GWB is, of course, the George Washington Bridge. It connects northern New Jersey with New York. There are two spans, an upper and a lower. My mom used to call the upper one George and the lower one Martha. Then she'd giggle. It was a decade before I got the joke. Which I think is a good thing.

I once sat in a back-up at the GWB for three straight hours. So I took those signs seriously. Better still, I knew the "local" (I assumed they meant roads). And I figured this was the powers that be rewarding me for the nickel +1 I did in New Jersey. I didn't have to sit in a ridiculous GWB back-up. I could get out! The Tappan Zee Bridge was calling me.

And that's how I found myself in Teterboro driving through foot-high standing water trying to remember where they'd put the Garden State Parkway.

That was just the early part of hell. My minivan and I swam through New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, braving lightning, high winds, monsoon-strength rains and flash floods. Yes, floods. And it all began the moment I decided I should drive through New Jersey rather than attempt the bridge. That's when the skies went dark. I went to pay the toll to exit the Turnpike, and when I opened my car window I was hit in the face with a horizontal wall of water that took my breath away and soaked me to the skin. Scary, scary weather.

Living in Jersey must be its own reward. Because my decision clearly just pissed off the powers that be.

In the end - well, in Connecticut - I did get my reward. Three stunning rainbows - one for each of the kids I'd left back home. The third was breathtaking, lighting up brightly against a pink and gray sunsetty sky. Lots of drama and color. I figure that one was for my rain-phobic, Jersey-born diva.

So maybe I have roots in Jersey after all.

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