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The Port of Homecoming

June 2024

It wasn’t until I wrote the essay, Education in America, in January 2017 that I took a critical look at the social structure of the New Jersey, or the corner of New Jersey, in which I came of age.


By the age of eight, I’d already lived in several abodes.  First there were The Projects, as they were called, in Paterson.  Then there was a rented house, somewhere in Paterson, where most of my older siblings and I stayed for several months, until we moved to Waldwick, or, The Country.  I can still recall sleeping on a Castro Convertible, which was a sofa, not a car made in Cuba.


From the time that I was not quite five years of age, up until the summer of my eighth year, home was a two-story rented house, with a hay barn out back, situated on acreage in Waldwick.  The structure dated back to the 1920s.  There were no sidewalks or fences or nearby neighbors.  It was idyllic!


The entire setting became, in my creative psyche, a cherished place to which I journeyed during my writing of THE DAWN.

That locale is not quite the “country of the heart” which so abundantly inspired W.B. Yeats.  It encompassed, however, the phase of my childhood when the little artist in me first expressed herself.


Just before I entered the third grade, financial and personal crises led my family of origin to move to another rental, a very old 2-story house with an attic and basement, in Prospect Park.  It was literally on the edge-of-town.  Across the street, lined with sycamores and a huge chestnut tree, the town of Hawthorne began.  From that point in time, tragedies ensued, the kinds that a child does not forget.  My Muse took care of how I remember them; she has made all the difference in teaching me that homecoming takes place within the heart.


That social structure of the long-ago Jersey seems comical to me, now.  At the time of my experiencing the cutthroat competition and soul-less striving for materialistic gains and senses of power, I built a wall around myself so as not to become jaded about how life can be truly lived, about how my Maker intends for life to be lived.


The first mark of success among the social climbers back then was to get yourself out of Paterson, and into Prospect Park.  Paterson was in the nasty, and hasty, process of being degraded, from its hey-day of the silkworm industry, into a welfare-city, courtesy of Lyndon Baines Johnson and his War on Society.

LBJ tended to think of the underclass in terms of poor rural people who had somehow been left behind by FDR’s rural electrification program.


The fact that urban “blacks” would flock from the South to the North to cash in on bigger government handouts, that reality probably didn’t occur to Lyndon; if it did, it didn’t matter.  The base of the Taking Coalition had to be expanded.  The subsequent white-flight from Paterson to outlying boroughs and towns was swift, steady, and irreversible.


The truly prosperous small-business-owners high-tailed it to North Haledon, spending some time, if necessary, in Haledon before going for the brass ring in that lovely, scenic borough outside of the blue collars of Haledon, and as far away as possible from the blue laws of Prospect Park.  North Haledon — in its prime — was replete with images and landscapes that my adolescent eyes feasted upon during my years of attending the regional high school there.


Prospect Park had the churches; Haledon had the bars; and North Haledon had the small businesses of the rich entrepreneurs, the obsessively eager beavers who were among the post-WWII rungs of self-made elites.  Those nouveau-riche fully believed they called the shots, and ruled their little world with an iron fist and greased palms.

It was social climbing with a step-stool.


I must have laughed at it at the time.  I don’t laugh now; for I have witnessed the pernicious effects of pompous, heartless, avaricious nobody’s upon their children, their neighbors, any outsider who comes their way and threatens to glom their game.


Little did I know, at least consciously, that the lessons that I endured, and painstakingly learned, during my eighteen years in New Jersey would re-emerge, time and time again, once I’d put myself to the task of raising my two children in northern northern California.


Never one to waste an insight, I clearly recognized the type of petty social climbing in which certain Californians indulged themselves.  And, yes, I did speak my mind to them about their crude selfishness and ghastly lack of, well, just about everything:  manners, conscience, consideration of others, empathy, any ability to exercise delayed gratification.

We’ve lived in a hideous, highly ego-driven, self-absorbed, swinish era in these United States of the past 50 years, or, basically, most of my lifetime.  I’d venture to say that this nation is not about to change overnight, but a sizeable straightening-up of the vulgar stupidity and amoral greed is underway.


Social climbing with a step-stool in New Jersey wasn’t an activity in which I could, or would, have engaged.  Born poor, raised poor, and forced to fend for myself at a tender age, I became light-years ahead of the spoiled brat punks called my peers.  Their catty, callous jibes, overflowing with their self-entitled jealousy of me, and anything that I achieved, at times, those words still ring in my ears.

They form, for me, the clarion call to freedom, and independence from the comfy prisons into which those uppity parvenus self-righteously placed themselves.  They guarded their swank, depraved cul-de-sacs as places where I didn’t belong, didn’t fit into, would never arrive at, couldn’t be a part of.

Frankly, I didn’t want to be where they were, wherever they were.  I yearned for a life wild and free.  I took flight from their fancy-dan dens of iniquity.  I chose a humble nothing over their high-and-mighty everything.  I lay claim to my places of the heart.  They didn’t even have a heart.


I’ve been tempest-tossed on many a sea, but, on this day, I’m firmly sailing into the port of homecoming.


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