’cause down the shore everything’s all right
you and your baby on a saturday night
nothing matters in this whole wide world
when you’re in love with a jersey girl…
- tom waits, or more famously, bruce springsteen
on sunday night, the man and i decamped to the sports arena park of brotherly battery tosses, AKA citizens bank park, to see another bruce show. we do this, he and i. well, he’s done it about six times more often than i have, but now when we do it, we do it together. ANYWAY, the show was amazing as always, and it was nice to see another ball park (and with apologies to the phillies-fan-wedded jessica, especially nice not to have to watch the phillies). the philly crowds are really, really, REALLY into bruce in a way i haven’t seen before, and he digs them right back. and he, naturally, played us “jersey girl.” i’d never heard him do that one live, so that was awesome.
and as they sang sha la la, la la la la, i felt this weird sense of HOME NOW ring through me. this happens sometimes when i’m in or near new jersey, and that always strikes me as odd. i mean, yes, i am a native of the garden state, as we’ve discussed before. my daddy lived there from age 25 through age 33, and as i have now learned, the place you live in your late 20s and early 30s is the place that really sticks in you. the last steps in your adult formation, the things that crystallizes you as who you’re going to be as an adult once you’re through trying on your identities, happen then, and the place where that happens is paramount in those indelible memories. and i can only imagine that if you have a kid somewhere, that multiplies the intensity of attachment to a place by a pretty significant factor. so new jersey means a lot to my daddy.
i do not remember living in new jersey very well. i got to alabama as a pigtailed preschooler in the summer of 1984. sometimes i try to imagine what that transition was like for my folks, but i really can’t. alabama informs all of my sentient, conscious memories of a childhood home. so when i’ve ventured back to philly, to new york city, and to jersey proper as a grown woman, it’s been strange to feel the connection. and i’ve never felt it more intensely in my life than i did standing in section 113 of citizens bank park as bruce sang about loving a jersey girl. it all sort of hit me: my daddy used to go to ball games around here. he played gigs and ate at diners. my mom looked after college kids and typed letters. they learned to make a killer sunday gravy from the old sicilian lady downstairs. [and no, that is not the link to the actual recipe; i still haven't mastered it yet, and i don't think i even have it written down anywhere.]
oh yeah, and i happened. they raised a little bald-headed girl-baby there.
it’s fun to think of the way things were then. it’s fun to think of my mom being my age, running around all over central jersey with me. when she was 31, i was 2, so our time in jersey would’ve been coming to a close. and it’s fun to hear that little song, which was also played the night bruce opened brendan byrne arena, which was also the first night i was ever snuggled, in the nursery at university medical center in princeton. daddy used to sing it to me when i was a baby. it resonates.
i think a lot about what home means, especially nowadays when i’m at the beginning of the not-short-but-nowhere-near-as-long-as-it-seems road towards being someone’s mama. home is definitely my beloved gulf coast; that’s the place that raised me. home is new orleans; that’s the city that influenced me all those years, the city of dreams for all us little gulf-coast kids. home is LSU; that’s the school that rebuilt me, the crucible that gave me the courage to stop settling and start striving again. home is the commonwealth, for better or for worse; it’s where i wrote the old chapters, and where i’m writing over them with the glorious new ones. and home is new jersey; it’s where i entered this life, and it’s where my parents lived the hell out of their lives in the most unexpectedly formative of the formative years.
that laundry list of places i’ve lived might make it seem like home doesn’t mean much to me. i’ve been a bit itinerant, it’s true. the man has distilled home into DC – it’s the place he chose to put his roots down, so it’s simple to him. but home means a ton to me. every single one of those places is a thread that weaves through me, and every one of them means more to me than words can quite describe. even jersey, the genesis of this journey. so thanks to bruce for singing me my song. thanks for serenading me home.