Tomorrow is the big day! I’ll be on a plane to Europe, and my return flight is far in the distance. Just last week and throughout the semester I’ll be taking a travel writing class with MatadorU, courtesy of a scholarship with API Study Abroad. I submitted my first assignment the other day, and one of the faculty said they (and I quote) “adored” my piece, which really gave me the encouragement I needed to know that taking this class was right for me.
The first assignment asked us to write about our hometowns, and the goal was to elicit a sense of temporality in the reader. Temporality, as we’ve learned it in the context of the class, is a sense of “life unfolding” or the feeling of being alive. In literature, some pieces of writing give its readers a temporal sense, which I think is a superior kind of sense not part of the five we know.
Temporality requires one to be in touch with the natural parts of the world that are outside the body. Sight, Sound, Taste, Touch, and Smell are all to do with oneself and only oneself. Temporality is a sense that is taken a step further, asking you to feel concepts outside of yourself, like time, earth, nature, and existence. I hope that sense is touched within you somehow in this short piece about my hometown.
Putting the “home” in “hometown”
Look at Washington Township, New Jersey on a map and all you’ll really see is an upside down, badly drawn pentagon (at best). There are blues for bodies of water and greens for forests and fields, yellows for roads and hardly recognizable lines for streets.
Visit this little town and you’ll find that most of it is average. The average town center consists of an average grocery store, a movie theater, an average Dunkin Donuts, a post office, and of course the average Jersey bagel store. The main roads are busy around 7:30 am and 3 pm, when kids are being dropped off and picked up among the elementary and high schools. The police drive around patrolling but mostly wasting gas. Average teenage kids steal average street signs, and average people walk their average dogs.
But grow up in this town, spend your best days in it, see it from the inside, and you will feel alive at the very thought of its existence no matter where in the world you find yourself. Walk through the average town center and feel as though everything and everyone you ever needed is there too. Find yourself stopped at the Ridgewood/Pascack intersection and hear friendly honks from people as they drive by; people you’ve known since you were ten. Walk home with a group of friends in the middle of the night after a house party and steal the average street sign that will forever remind you of the best summer of your life.
Take the time to feel this place and all of the little things that make it more of a home than a town, and you might just feel the sense of constant content-ness that continues to lure the soul. That’s how it was for me, at least.
Since moving here in the 4th grade from Manila, I’ve since proclaimed Washington Township the place in the world that makes me happiest. Maybe it’s the chocolate blizzards that the Dairy Queen employees make with love, or Carlton, the world’s friendliest, most caring crossing guard. It could also be the Christmas lights at Bacari Grill and Seasons. Or the sound of cars driving 70 miles per hour on the Garden State Parkway. The way everyone cares about each other—or the fact that they show it.
If I were to convince you to move here, I’d talk about how the people are nice, the town is safe, and the proximity to New York City is convenient. If I were to just be real instead, I’d write a book about how one-of-a-kind each person is, and that his or her story has the potential to change the way you look at people. I would tell you a tragic story about how my best friend died in his home on Woodfield Road the summer of 2006, and how that story changed my life forever. Them, I’d take you on a tour of my brain to show you that the wonders you can find in New York City are just about average compared to the ones I’ve discovered in the average town of Washington Township.