Whenever the situation arises and a decision is made to go to the beach, Heather shows patience with me and allows me to avoid the most direct routes in favor of local roads down into Central Jersey for our excursion. Along the way, I tend to repeat not-easily-forgotten proponents of my upbringing, which was, by and large, Monmouth and Middlesex County, N.J.
Some of those snippets include:
“That’s the gas station where I bought my first car from a man named Scamp. The ‘82 Datsun.” (Route 35, Middletown)
“There used to be a shortcut to that 7-11 from our house.” (Lloyd Road, Matawan)
“That orchard is renowned throughout New Jersey.” (Route 34, Colts Neck)
“One time, we stole pumpkins from that pumpkin patch and collected them on the side of the road, but when I went to get the car and retrieve them, someone else had stolen them.” (Route 34, Holmdel)
“That used to a Boston Market. I don’t know what ‘Kicky’s Restaurant‘ is though.” (Route 34, Matawan)
“That clown scared me to death as a child.” (Evil Clown, Route 35, Middletown)
Most of the time, it’s really just small talk, reminisces of a yesteryear when the terrains remained the same, but the signs and shapes of my daily surroundings were different (with exception to the clown, which remains). I realize that it’s the experiences of my past, and that by crossing back over the land in which these experiences happened, that my mind will dig up these past memories and apply my current morality to my past exploits. (IE – Don’t steal and never buy a used car from a guy named Scamp.) But it’s also a way for me to dig up some nostalgia and remember what is was like to be a kid growing up in central New Jersey in the late ’70s, throughout the ’80s and mid ’90s.
Today, on our way back from Spring Lake, N.J., I took Route 35. Along the way, we stopped in Bradley Beach for coffee (former teenage hangout), then in Eatontown at the DMV to get the car inspected (the same place where I successfully passed my driver’s test as a 17-year-old), and then in Middletown at a Whole Foods.
The last destination shouldn’t have meant much, but more than a few times, as young kid, I remember my mother and grandmother, in the same parking lot, counting coupons for Shop Rite’s annual “Can Can celebration.” It was nothing more than a sales event for Shop Rite’s own brand of canned goods, but it was on land that I once traversed as a child, with a family I no longer knew in the same way. (My grandmother passed away in 1994, the rest of us have moved on away from Monmouth County.)
For a moment, I felt sad at the loss of what once during that memory. It wasn’t just the mourning of my past life as a child; it was more just the realization that these very real trigger objects to my earlier life still exist throughout so much of New Jersey, and that soon, I would be too far away to visit them in just an hour’s drive down Route 35.
But then, just as quickly, we turned the car on, exited onto Route 35, and headed North for the lives we currently occupied.