Monday, March 16, 2015

Hometown? Hm


            “Where are you from?” my neighbor asked my visiting cousin.
           “How far back do you want me to go?” he responded.

             My cousin lived in three states before settling in the Midwest about 50-years ago. So where is he from—the city listed on his birth certificate or the place he lived most of his life?  Living parts of your life in multiple geographic areas is quite the norm for many folks, including me. Today my knee-jerk response to the “where are you from” question is “South Florida,” but obviously once someone hears me say “worta” instead of “water”, they know it wasn’t always that way.

In the late 1960’s, my husband and I moved from Queens, New York to the same area on eastern Long Island as my brother. A new, mutual friend of ours looked puzzled when I told him I was from Queens.
            “But your brother is from Brooklyn,” he said. “Didn’t you live together?”  

            Big Bro was ready for college when our family relocated to Queens, but I still was in grade school. My earliest vivid memories take place in Queens, my brother’s in Brooklyn. Hence our very different responses to, “Where’re ya from?”
            My husband and I moved to Plantation, a city in South Florida in 1973 along with our two young children, so I’ve lived here for well over half of my life. Our sons were raised there, and I collect a Florida teacher’s pension. I haven’t thought of myself as a New Yorker in decades. A few years ago, a comic who entertained in my “seniorville”—a community made up of probably 90% or more transplants from northern states—justified my current response as to my hometown.  
            “You’re a native Floridian,” the performer told his audience of retirees,” if you were here before ninety-five.”
            The “natives” in the audience howled because we realized he was referring to I-95, not someone’s age. The bulk of the audience in my over-55 community, relative newcomers to Florida, had a blank look on their faces. They were clueless that I-95 wasn’t completed thus connecting our area to the rest of the highway until the late 1980’s. 

            Shortly after we moved to Florida, years before Google Maps or a GPS, we asked a new neighbor for directions to a museum in Miami. “Can you drive on a highway?” the person asked.

            After my husband nodded, our neighbor advised us that our destination was very far—almost an hour’s drive. My husband replied—without cracking a smile—that he felt our family could handle the excursion.

That day I learned two interesting things about most of our new neighbors with respect to road travel. First, only those few who learned to drive on highways or parkways on an almost daily basis didn’t fear getting mowed down by a tractor trailer while merging onto I-95. My driving skills were honed on The Interboro, a narrow, curvy road connecting Brooklyn and Queens. Hubby received his training on the roads and bridges connecting the Bronx with the rest of the city.

Second, I became aware of the fact that to many people living in Florida a long time, anything more than 45-minutes in a car each way constituted an over-night trip to people who didn’t grow up spending half of their Sundays in traffic to and fro visiting relatives 50 miles away.

Forty years later, neither my husband’s nor my driving outlooks have budged. However, even though we insist our hometown is Plantation, we credit the city of our birth with giving us the skills needed to drive on South Florida’s highways, especially the fifty-mile trip from Palm Beach to Miami. We have no trouble crossing— in less than a mile—the five lanes at the southern end of the Florida Turnpike which lets us then merge onto I-95 South and then immediately cross five more lanes and enter the express lanes without either of us going into cardiac arrest.

1 comment:

Chelle Cordero said...

LOL, I grew up in the Bronx but never learned to drive until I was married and living in the northwestern suburbs of NYC - to this day I still dislike driving and only do it out of necessity. I still tell folks I'm from "da Bronx" even though I live here for 40 years.