So I’m still just finishing my Christmas shopping and preparing for the big day: This isn’t an old post. The big day is Jan. 7th, when I get together with my own family for the holidays. When I was growing up in the west end of Hartford, Conn., we lived on the bottom floor of my grandmother’s house on Francis Avenue, with my Aunt Ruth and Uncle Joe two doors down, and my father’s aunt and uncle and cousins up on Park Street, so Christmas and all the other holidays were a very local thing. My parents did not even own a car until I was ten. I had cousins in Wethersfield and Newington, and those suburbs of Hartford seemed a long way off. Somehow we would get transported to their houses for holiday dinners and it was a true adventure.
The irony, of course, is that as the granddaughter of immigrants, my ancestors had all taken a chance at some point in their lives, packing up their respective bags in Yorkshire and Prussia and Russian-controlled Poland and a certain island in the North Sea, making the unimaginable trip across the Atlantic only to end up in a small New England city where they would remain rooted for the rest of their lives. Now that diaspora spirit lives on in my generation and beyond, as we all set off, pulling up stakes and setting up someplace new. Well, most of us. I still have plenty of family in New England. Somehow I ended up in New Jersey, my daughter in Tennessee, my mother and father on the Florida Panhandle. My youngest sister has been literally back and forth across the country several times, spending a decade in California, only to settle herself in Brooklyn, which makes her my closest relative now. I live in New Jersey only because of my husband, who has lived here his whole life and doesn’t want to live anywhere else, although financial realities may eventually persuade him to reconsider: This is a fearfully expensive place to live and grow old.
I always say I could live anywhere, but don’t know if this is exactly true. I once had a very funny conversation with my sister Laurie about this: It started out with one or the other of us saying “You know, I could live in a two-room trailer, as long I had…” And then we kept coming up with things we couldn’t live without. A good bed, a TV, our books, a sofa, a good kitchen stove, and a nice table of course for friends, a bathtub, one of those fancy shower heads and…and…and…And before you knew it, it appeared we couldn’t happy with anything less than a 10-room apartment on Central Park West. But when you grow up kind of poor, you know for a fact there’s plenty of stuff you can live without. And that you can live a worthy life just about anywhere.
I might have gotten a little off topic here. We mourn a little when friends and family move away, but this post was meant to support the whole diaspora thing overall, since moving and resettling can be a great life-affirming act. And it certainly makes for great get-togethers, at holiday time.