So here I am, back in the Garden State with my entire family for the first time in years, in the homeland for our niece’s wedding. We landed less than 24 hours ago and already the culture shock has me giddy.
How is it that in a few short years I forgot so much? Like how cold can feel.
Or how real “Jersey girls” (big hair, big makeup, big attitude) are typically the ones in charge of a hotel check-in desk. And how narrow and bumpy the roads are, and how crazy the drivers
. Even though I’ve written about the horn-honking habit
here, even I
forgot about the actual frequency of it. ”That
”, I told my daughters, “is a New Jersey symphony.”
Like it or not, our kids are hearing a nonstop earful from us, which of course is every kid’s dream. Around every corner our personal history hits us in the face, so much so that I can’t get the stories out of my mouth fast enough as we drive past our memories
(and I talk pretty fast). We know whom the streets are named for and who owns the many family businesses, an amazing number of which are still around and have truly stood the test of time and a tough economy (unlike fly by night Arizona). We know when the “new
” buildings were built and all the transformations each one has seen. Jimmie and I have our mutual histories as well as our separate stories of times spent in each location, and they’re hearing every one of them, sometimes more than they want to (Look...that’s where I had my first kiss! Look...there's the restaurant where you threw up when you were two!).
And they’re meeting the people who knew us when we were young and crazy and “fun”, and who think we still are.
I have to chuckle when I forget that they are now Arizona girls. Like when the diner waitress was overly apologetic about our brief wait for her to get to our table. When she was out of earshot my daughter Christina said, “It seems like she’s used to people being really mean to her.” Bingo.
The thing is even if I felt like being impatient and bitchy (which I don't), I'd still seem pretty nice to the locals.
And when she asked if we wanted more “cawfee
”, my heart just melted a little. I love not having to think about my “accent”. I can let it out full force because it’s no accent here.
Kelly was shocked and disappointed to realize there are no free refills
on soda in New Jersey. Both our kids have restaurant experience and so they know that “pop” from a soda fountain costs next to nothing. It just doesn’t make any sense to them. But that’s just Jersey, kids, always ready to make a profit any way it can.
But they aren’t the only ones who forgot about certain truths.
When we went to “Shop-Rite” to pick up a few things, beer being one of them, it was only after Jimmie searched the store that he realized there’s no stinkin’ beer in the supermarket
! You have to go to a “Bottle King” for that. But one thing you’ve gotta hand it to New Jersey for is the selection of great food
If anyone was listening to us, we must have sounded like tourists from another galaxy. Every time I spotted a food item I hadn’t seen in awhile, I could not contain myself. (Look! Entenmann’s corn muffins! Thumann’s cold cuts! Twelve kinds of mozzarella!)
Christina added, “Their bakery
is even better than Chompies!” (the gold standard of baked goods in Phoenix).
And when we checked out, as I stood there waiting for my groceries to be bagged, it took my daughter to pull me back to reality by reminding me that there are no baggers in New Jersey
. The shopper IS the bagger. No wonder the cashier was looking at me so strangely.
As the days progress, I’ll be keeping a running tab on friendly hellos vs. unfriendly glares. So far the count is about 60-40, with unfriendly in the lead. Not too bad actually.
P.S. It’s snowing.
Originally published on Examiner.com