Visiting old haunts can be an interesting experience, a sort of time travel adventure. Doing so with someone with whom is shared a great emotional tie can greatly increase the significance of that adventure by the verbal communication that takes place. Tom (Paul) and I took a trip back into my past on Labor Day 2002.
The day following a family celebration in New Jersey on Sunday September 1 2002 for my youngest sister Mary's first grandchild (and the first in the whole Antonik clan), Tom (Paul) and I spent the afternoon travelling around portions of Morris county. (The morning was devoted to a visit with one of my two remaining aunts - my late mother's youngest sister - whom I hadn't seen in more than 4 years and of course had never met Tom (Paul).
Relating to Tom (Paul) what had occurred in various places was a filling-in of a picture I started verbally for him some time ago during various emails and short visits in our early relationship. Actually seeing the house and town, for instance, where my family lived from the start of my high school years provided details that my earlier words could not adequately supply. He could now see more of the mental images I held whenever I thought or spoke of those days. We had the unexpected experience of being able to view the inside of my old home and, although much of it was changed - to be expected with more that 25 years passage since my parents sold it - the beautiful fieldstone fireplace was still the visual centerpiece that it had always been.
We also had lunch in the neighboring town where my family enjoyed many a Sunday brunch at an eating spot which still retained the same name - Paul's Diner - and much of its original appearance. The highschool from which I graduated in 1963 had only 1 visible exterior change that I could detect since I'd last seen it some 20 years ago - a memorial added to the flagpole by the class of 1999. The grade school where I'd attended 6th-8th while living on board the last duty station to which my father was assigned before retiring from the US Navy also had but one minor exterior addition. While the house my first husband and I owned before moving to Arizona in 1975 looked relatively unchanged, the dry cleaning store my father owned (and in which I helped periodically when home from my nursing studies) was more radically altered and now was partly a laundromat - something he had not been able to achieve due to the town's inadequate water supply at the time.
With these and more sights seen on our hurried tour, I could more fully share with Tom (Paul) the remembrances I had of helping my father build a massive railroad tie retaining wall for the house in the first years, and enlisting his aid in teaching my first husband to polka the night before our wedding which was also the last night I slept there. Although significant alterations had been done to the kitchen, Tom (Paul) could now better imagine the noisy bustling meals shared by my parents and their 5 children. Similarly, he could now better envision the strong memories of my father's perseverance when he operated the "drop store" portion of his dry cleaning business from the sidewalk though he could not enter the building on order of the fire chief for months after a fire occurred in a restaurant under the same roof. (He also took a job as a highschool janitor to provide for the family and still be able to service his customers.) Memories I relate to Tom (Paul) about the earliest days of my first marriage have a fuller sense to them now that he's seen at least the front of the house on Dorothy Lane and some of the surrounding neighborhood with its hills and winding roads.
Conveying all of the thoughts and images held in one's mind to another is an impossible task through speech alone. Tom's (Paul's) ultimate desire in this realm is a mental transfer process between agreeing parties - a sort of painless Spock-like mind meld. Until some day in the future when such thought transference is possible, all that 2 human beings can do to broaden and deepen their mutual understanding is to convey in descriptive words, with the help of on site visits to places (and people) that played a significant role in each other's past.
Tom (Paul) and I have made similar "time travels" in Toronto and other places in Ontario over the past 2 1/2 years where he spent many years in various roles - son, student, husband, father, university mathematics professor, and computer entrepreneur. Seeing the locals as he verbally detailed what transpired there provided me with a special "feel" for that period in his life. Now he has had that same experience and it has added a new dimension to our relationship.
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