Tonight is our last night in New Jersey. Tomorrow morning we'll start our trip home. We'll be on the road for five days, taking our time and visiting some more sights along the way.
I've enjoyed every minute of our stay in my native state. Our week at the shore was the highlight, no doubt about it. But the best part was spending time with my aunt Madeline and cousin Jackie and her family. It's been a year and a half since we'd last seen each other, so we had lots of catching up to do. It was the first time in many years that Jackie's kids and my kids were together, so that was fun, too!
I got to do just about everything in Jersey that I wanted to while I was here. I saw the Statue of Liberty. I swam in the ocean, sat for long hours on the beach. I had a juicy Jersey tomato and some of the best, sweetest Jersey corn. I heard strains of my mother's voice as I listened to my aunts and uncle and cousins. I drove the Turnpike and survived, sat in my car while someone else pumped the gas (something I've not experienced in any other state), and remembered "my exit" off the turnpike. I breathed in the lovely aroma of the pine trees after a soft rain. There's good reason New Jersey is called the Garden State, as evidenced by the abundance of foliage and flowers and trees. It truly is a beautiful state. I only lived here for a short time in my life while I was growing up. But some places don't require a lot of time to become a part of who you are. My roots are here, and they are very strong and run deep.
However, I admit that I'm looking forward to getting back to Colorado. I imagine how we'll search for the first glimpse of the mountains after we cross the Kansas border and drive across the big open prairie. I know that as much as I'll always look forward to my trips "back" east, the wide open spaces of the prairie, big blue sky and majestic Rocky Mountains are truly home for me. I can't imagine living anywhere else, but neither can I forget the place that was my first home.