ON CROSSING THE HUDSON RIVER
ON CROSSING THE HUDSON RIVER
Moses and the ancient Israelites crossed over the Jordan River barrier into the Promised Land of Canaan. Caesar had his big Rubicon River crossing on "invading" back into his homeland of Italy and the American settlers had the"wide Missouri River" to cross over on their long trek westward. We had only the not so wide Hudson River to get over, a hindrance we had overcome many times already in stoic and unremarkable fashion. But of late we had come to view it more symbolically as part of the actual exodus from New York State became more reality and not playful fantasy. We were crossing over the Hudson more frequently now as our project of moving to New Jersey neared its final implementation---Not D Day but Move Day! Leaving lovely Long Island, the Big Apple of New York City, the literal cultural capital of the world and the Empire State itself, also with a life time of personal memories---and the Yankees and Mets and the football Giants and Jets, who cloaked in the physical venue of the New Jersey Meadowlands, still carried the majestic aura of a New York identity.
True, we were going to a smaller yet very prestigious name dropping residence---Princeton--- with its ivy scholastic mystique as an alluring substitute in our deceleration of pace from the somewhat more hectic Long Island. But still we were leaving behind a life time of successful living and many friendships, and although not completely adrift in a new, unknown environment, and much planning and hoping had been involved, the final event of moving was an ultimate event of great, utter finality. Our own Jordon , Rubicon, and wide Missouri crossing combined.
And when we arrived, although our new apartment had been very beautifully prepared by my wife’s very diligent and devoted daughter--- -who lived in the area--- the confusion of the unpacking and placement of the clothing, furniture, and priceless mementoes of all our prior living became a nagging complexity. One of my more prescient relatives---my very wise cousin Morty---once said that you can live eighty per cent of your life with twenty percent of your purchases, a golden nugget of wisdom that had always lingered in my peripheral consciousness now become a startling discomfort. We had almost fifteen hundred square feet of living space in our comfortable, two and half bedroom, two bathroom, adequate eat in kitchen and relatively large living room dining room combination, and adequate closet space, including a somewhat large walk in bedroom closet. But alas, no attic or basement space, and I found myself forced to follow a necessary dictum propounded by my wife’s apartment overseer, her daughter, that any clothes over two or three years old at most must be jettisoned! So our limited generosity was somewhat grudgingly expanded to various religious thrift shops in the area, and one of the women helping us unpack had open admiration for my "rich man’s" wardrobe and its forced diminution.
But on the absolutely positive side were our new neighbors in the large apartment building that we were now in, some of whom even brought us little flower bouquets of welcome. And soon the warm welcome of our new neighbors manifested itself in many forms, and the problem of name retention was a pleasant embarrassment, and we were assured that this predicament would pass away somewhere down the line—in months or years-- and only a warm smile was needed in place of faulty or absent name recognition. This was a reassuring truth, as I realized that even before our epic migration I was having embarrassing problems with new name retention at our former Long Island domicile. Also embarrassing problems with not jumbling together the varied and increasing physical symptoms that our friends there were becoming plagued with. And sometimes seeing them counting out the number of pills at each meal that had to be ingested. These people were still, in theory, doughty self reliant individuals each returning to their independent, individual dwellings, many with a large two story climb with unused bedrooms "for when the children come". And who do eventually arrive to use those bedrooms to care for their doughty, individual parents and grandparents who no longer are the exemplars of that healthful, hoped for, and somewhat mythical prototype of old age self sufficient vigor.
My wife and I realized that following the path of "if it’s not broke don’t fix it" is not the proper path. In our prior Long Island setting, at our rather advanced chronologic age, the so called support network of nearby concerned friends was not enough. There were inevitable gaps that loomed large at many crucial times; the friends still had their own lives to live too. Most important, the splendid isolation that was so cherished fades when infirmity threatens, and some sort of close communal group living becomes almost an imperative necessity. And that it is much more prudent at anticipate that need when still in reasonable health and not wait till emergency health care needs add additional stress to a current medical or emotional crisis.
The best path, indeed, is not only some sort of community living which is independent, but also inter dependant, with some meals taken together and joint finances for living quarters, grounds maintenance and some group trips. Kitchens are still important for breakfast and certain ceremonial rites. The most sacred one now being to use the phone therein to make reservations for meals in the dining room, especially when the children come. But most importantly this type of independent living is now minus some of the dead weight of material living. Not all, of course, but enough to allow our somewhat less energy laden bodies to expend ourselves in our most productive proclivities. Sometimes, indeed, that is plain old fashioned conversation after dinner, lingering over the dessert. Or volunteering in the many committees set up to help run our condominium complex. Or the self actualization painting or essays such as this, which some people enjoy reading---I hope.
The point is that our transcendant Hudson River crossing has been followed by many other happy, routine returns to our new Princeton home, even though the address is a charming fiction, not unlike many other such postal hoaxes for seeming elevated prestige. As best as I can determine, since this is still new geography to me, we live in West Windsor, adjacent to Princeton Township, in which is Princeton Boro where lies that eminent establishment of learning—Princeton University. And also, more than parenthetically, my wife’s two adult married children and several of her grandchildren, and not far away an almost three year old great grandchild and some of my family, still in the Big Apple, New York City, not far away.
Just to validate our location in the midst of these tenuous boundaries we spent an extra fifty dollars for the privilege of joining the Princeton library, since we were out of the area, and could have joined, at no additional fee, our Plainsboro branch, which is still more than adequate. (Please, no inquiries as to why this latter library, regionally, is our library!)
What matters is that we have landed firmly on solid ground after taking part, perhaps unwittingly, in what retrospectively is the return in some degree to the nest or at least those formative areas from which we started. And not really for purposes of burial, but for reinvigoration and reintegration into life’s basic rhythms, still throbbing strongly as the years go by. To quote Tennyson, "to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield." We are, indeed, part of a small but significant counter trend in our mobile society, which is still expanding outwardly. Consolidating our life’s experiences and living with the fruits and sorrows of our cherished hopes, but still nourished mightily by the promise of our progeny—now in our midst--- and their potential for good works. And which we still hope to influence positively now by our still standing in place seeking, striving and not yielding readily to the many unpleasant vagaries that a long life has probably made us heir to.