When I was a kid I was always bummed at the end of a vacation (but hey, who isn’t, right) especially when the family would travel to West Virginia to visit relatives. That long drive home (7 to 8 hours with potty and food stops) felt grim, especially after Labor Day weekend, the weekend of the Clarksburg Italian Heritage Festival, which we attended quite often. My lone consolation was a pepperoni roll from D’Annunzio’s Italian Bakery, which we would stock up on along with Italian bread on our way out of town. But this most recent trip I was even more bereft than usual. I don’t know. Maybe I was just stressed because of the job interview I had the day after I returned. Also, I had to make sure that I returned in time to pick up Addy from her first day of school. This was the first year that I was not with her to take photos before she went off to school that morning. But with divorce comes a change in traditions.
I left early that morning. Up at 4:30am, after not getting to bed until 11:30pm because I was up late talking with my aunt, my mom’s twin sister, I headed out onto the road at 6am. It was still pitch dark out, and it was raining. It had been raining all day the day before and there was no sign it was going to let up on the day of my departure. It did not. I drove in the dark and steady rain on US 50, which winds and turns. I couldn’t make myself go more than 40 miles per hour. But before I hit Parkerburg the sun began to show itself and I found a place to stop and get gas. Gradually, as I headed north, the rain let up, and by time I hit Columbus, Ohio, it had stopped entirely. The clouds had parted and the sun shone through.
Despite the improved weather I was not feeling any better really. There was a part of me that just didn’t want to leave West Virginia, that part of me that, as a kid, believed that one day I would live there and marry a nice Italian girl and raise my family. Of course, living there would have been vastly different than visiting Clarksburg. Visiting meant running to the Dairy Mart for candy and Chilly Willy slushies and freeze pops and bubble gum; and hiking up town with my cousin, John David; and walking the railroad tracks, even over the trestle over the river; and running wild all over Northview, the section of Clarksburg where my relatives reside; and staying up very late, playing outside in the yard, chasing lightening bugs and whipping apples at each other and up in the air for circling bats to chase; and hanging out on the big back porch of 103 Hall Place. It was all fun. There was no work to be done, not by us kids anyway. Whereas living there would be like living anywhere else, full of work and responsibilities and bills to pay. And yet, I still wonder if I couldn’t be happy there, happier anyway.
What did it matter? My responsibilities waited for me in Michigan — my apartment and family and the need to find a job, and most importantly Addy, may daughter. How could I ever live two states and 8 hours away from her?
Addy did not make the trip to West Virginia with me this time, which was too bad. I was sorry she hadn’t. She had cousins down there that she could have played with. And of course all the relatives would have enjoyed meeting her. And I’m sure she would have enjoyed meeting them. Next year, I plan on taking her. That’ll be nice, and fun. And I bet it will make the return trip a bit easier. Don’t you?