XIV. The Notion Of The North

After spending two weeks rearranging the twenty six letters of the alphabet into meaningless ramblings, I've realized it's not time for me to write about Cincinnati; at least not yet. I'll head North in a different direction.

A week before She kissed The Boy, the two of us traveled to where our union began: Buffalo, New York. We spent the better part of two months planning our trip to the homeland. The travel arrangements were a nightmare, airplane versus automobile being the major issue. She chose airplane. I chose automobile. When given the option to carpool with the Aunts, I weighed the pros and cons. On one hand I wouldn't have to drive or pay for gas and I could spend time with them. On the other hand, I would be confined to a mini van with five children and the thought absolutely terrified me. If I had to listen to two twelve year old boys debating the merits of Family Guy and South Park for several hours, surely I'd throw myself from the moving vehicle and become yet another inconvenient bit of mess for the highway patrol. Verdict: it would be a solo drive.

When the day arrived, I started out excited and early enough, armed with my music and cell phone. Four hours later I was barely out of Washington, DC; I'd hit stopped traffic at every turn and, of course, rain! Glorious. After much cursing and several phone calls to Her it was decided I'd spend the night in Pennsylvania and drive the second leg in the morning. As soon as the sun began its descent I snatched up a hotel room. I could barely sleep because of the anticipation.

The second leg was effortless. Beautiful weather. No traffic. The scenic countryside, rustic barns and windmills reminded me of my love for road trips. The moment I crossed over the New York state line, I cheered at the top of my lungs and clapped just once before planting my hands back on the wheel. I was ecstatic, at the same time, when I entered the Buffalo city limits, nostalgia washed over me. It had been over a decade since I'd been to the city where I, as well as my entire family, came from and the previous visit had been a somber one. It was the last time I saw my Great Uncle before he passed, the last time I communicated with any of my Father's family; but the most tragic of it all, it was the last time I saw my Father. But that's another story for another day.

This visit would be a joyous one. My Great Aunt's 80th birthday, not that she looks a day over 60! Her children had planned a tremendous party to celebrate and we had all assembled from the corners of the globe. She knew my Aunts were coming but My Uncle, myself and She were a "surprise" gift. I was shocked not even the young cousins let the secret out of the bag. The moment she saw us, she held out her arms, clung to us and started weeping. It was difficult to keep my composure. That entire day was full of hugs, smiles, laughter and catching up with family we hadn't seen in years. Being around my Great Aunt and seeing her interact with her grandchildren made me miss my Grandparents even more. I felt blessed to have such a wonderful, loving extended family and wished that I could be closer to them all.

Unfortunately, we only spent a few days in Buffalo. She didn't want a stressful, rushed agenda with sight-seeing, nor did I. Our days would start by having Starbucks in our beautiful hotel lobby with My Uncle from Texas. Then we'd simply drive. Saw the hospital I was born in, restaurants my Grandparents frequented, Delaware Park and the Buffalo Zoo. We found our old neighborhood and casually parked outside our first home, knowing we looked like stalkers and didn't care.

Oh and there was food, lot's of it. Roast beef on salty kimmelweck rolls, pizza from Santora's, Canadian beer on tap. Salen hot dogs with sauerkraut and mustard from Ted's. Friday night fish fry at the old Pine Lodge. And lastly, real Buffalo Wings. I am certain I had wings every day I was there. She fell head first off the vegan bandwagon the day we got there.

Even though I had no memories of the places she showed me I felt as if I was channeling my Father the whole time. It had only been five years since I lost him and just knowing that he had been on the same streets not too long ago, somehow helped with my grief. Our last stalker drive was my favorite. It was the morning of Her flight home. We visited the house She grew up in. Aside from the trees doubling in size and the removal of a swimming pool, according to Her it was all exactly the same. Age hadn't changed the neighborhood a bit. It astounded me.

Lastly, we visited the only place in all of Buffalo that I had real memories of: my Great Grandmother's house, my Nana. It was perfect. I eyed the small little cottage with its detached single car garage and fenced in back yard. In my memory it was still blue, the basement still smelled of bananas and freshly laundered linens, and my Nana was still alive sitting in her kitchen, legs crossed, hands in her lap, smiling. How I wished I remembered Nana's Christmas Eve feast in that house, listening to the family stories told while they had their after dinner coffee and played cards. How I wished I had seen the fish swimming around in the bucket.

After She left I spent the day with my Uncle. It was the first time we had spent any time together without the rest of our family busily chattering around us, I couldn't help but be amused by my Uncle chain-smoking and cursing between inhales and exhales at the plethora of car dealerships along the route. We had day tripped to Rochester to spend time with my cousin and his young family and celebrate his birthday. Then it was on to Niagara Falls because even though I'd driven past it numerous times in my childhood, I didn't remember seeing it. Beautiful is an understatement. The real draw, of course, being the casinos! The Casino: even more beautiful especially because I won $300! I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent with him and thanked him for making me richer.

The next day I left Buffalo before the world and the sun had risen. I reached the Pennsylvania border by dawn and pulled into the welcome center. It was desolate. Silent. At sunrise I stood outside the car, sipping my morning coffee, and breathed in the cool air. I was only an hour and a half away and already I longed to go back. I ached for my family to be whole again, my Grandparent's to be healthy, my father to be alive and free from addiction, and to be a part of the history and memories of Buffalo that I was too young to experience or remember.

A long drive gives you a lot of time to think. I was still stuck on Her couch and I needed to get off it. It was time for me to start making my own history, whatever that may be. ~Braticas

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