By the time we crossed the Tappan Zee, Lilah was out cold and Cookie had either passed out or had decided the effrontery of a long car trip in the cat carrier was beyond his limited vocabulary. The only sound from the backseat was Lilah’s occasional thumb-slurping.
The boys were still in school in New Jersey even as I crossed through New York; their father would get them after school and take them skiing for the weekend while I met the moving truck at our new home in Massachusetts. For another two hours, Mountain Lakes, NJ was still their home, yet I was already gone and might never set foot there again. The future is forward and rarely loops back.
It took less than an hour to get to Connecticut. Crossing that border into New England always gives me a premature sense of accomplishment. Two states already! Yet still three hours to go on the drive.
My tags and my driver’s license both said New Jersey, but New Jersey wasn’t my home. In the past two weeks, I’ve changed my address on magazine subscriptions, credit cards, and bank records, but Massachusetts was not my home. I’d arrive in three hours and retrieve the keys to our rental house, but that wouldn’t make it my home, either.
People always tell me how much they hate moving, sort of in the way people meet a dentist and spend twenty minutes bitching about how much they hate getting their teeth cleaned. I don’t hate moving. I am flustered by trying to find the grocery store and anxious about locating swimming lessons, but the only thing I really hate about moving is trying to sell a house.
Moving is a cleansing. You go through old papers and throw away expired Infant’s Tylenol. There’s a sadness to turning the lock on your old home and an expectancy to turning the lock on the new one, but in the middle there’s clarity.
Liminal spaces are powerful. Just ask any child who has ever stood with the left foot in one town and the right in another. There’s a potent ambiguity attendant upon not knowing exactly where you are, being unable to define yourself by location. It’s the thrill of walking through a doorway, finding a secret passageway, and standing almost dry at the edge of a mighty ocean with just the tongue of it licking against your feet.
In Mountain Lakes, there are people who grew up in town and are now raising their kids there, sometimes in the same house where they once surreptitiously rubbed a booger onto the wall instead of bothering to get a tissue. I find that romantic and maybe a little exotic. There’s much to be gained by that. They know exactly where they are, and they can say with no doubt that Mountain Lakes is their home, that they are “Lakers,” that they are rooted in this spot.
The trade off is the clarity that comes from being alone with yourself somewhere in the middle of Connecticut without a location-based identity, not even knowing which station is NPR.