If you asked me for a list of places where I have felt most at home, the list would undoubtedly include Hoboken, a small city ten minutes removed from New York that has been a part of my family’s history for nearly a century. My grandfather grew up here in the late 1920s, and decades later my mother attended high school not far from where her father had lived. My family comes here often, sometimes in pursuit of a new flavor combination at our favorite Italian delicatessen or to snag a slice of pizza the size of a small child. Often we visit one of the local bakeries, where the elderly owner speaks Italian to my mother, who basks in the glow of a language she does not understand but which connects her to her own ancestors. It is a city where rows of brownstones cast wistful shadows in the late afternoon sunlight, but the shadows feel inviting to those lucky enough to experience them. I have been on my own in Hoboken when I am in need of identity-affirming solace, but I prefer to share the city with someone who can appreciate it equally.
My mother and I, left to our own devices this afternoon, were unable to rouse ourselves to any grand plans and so naturally we settled on spending the latter portion of our day meandering through Hoboken. Not surprisingly, we found ourselves in a small diner called nestled on the edge of the city’s main boulevard, sharing coffees and grilled cheese while we traded memories of years past and predictions for the year to come.
And it felt quite good to be home again.