Notes on Thanksgiving in New Jersey

New Jersey Narrative
by Morgan deBoer Nov 23, 2009
Going back to visit family for Thanksgiving lends itself, inevitably, to reflecting on how much has changed in your neighborhood, and what stays the same.

“WE’LL GO get it.” I yawn when my mother says she needs an onion and butter from the grocery store.

She smiles and hands me a twenty. She wipes her face with a towel and turns up the AC. Mom does not like to delegate any task that could ruin Thanksgiving and we have already peeled the potatoes and set the table. Sending us to the grocery store is safe.

We borrow the Benz and my sister and I creep slowly out of the garage onto our tree lined street. Before we turn the corner onto Buckalew Ave, we wave at Mr. Scarpeti. He is sitting in a lawn chair in front of his open garage, smoking a cigar. “I hope that cute boy is working at the Starbucks” my sister says.

“Where is there a Starbucks?”

“At Stop N Shop.”

My family lives in the older part of town. I think I noticed a change, a creation of “older” and “newer” parts, as I entered middle school. It seemed as if there were a lot of new kids who lived in big new houses in developments named “Heritage Chase,” and “Deer Path.”

Our house was once the home of a legendary local gangster who disappeared in a plane crash in the 1970s and may or may not have left money or a body buried in the back porch. The home across the street belonged to a cop who was investigating him at the time. My siblings and I learned these stories sitting on the floors of pizza parlors and listening to our Dad talk New Jersey history with the owners.

Everything beyond our neighborhood was farmland and woods then. The old residents didn’t like my parents for being young and “new.”

In the early 1900s, a hotel, a railroad and the small town of Jamesburg grew up to accommodate tourists visiting a lake there. Homes grew out and away from that downtown.

When my parents moved here 30 years ago, they bought a home in Monroe Township a half mile from the lake. Everything beyond our neighborhood was farmland and woods then. The old residents didn’t like my parents for being young and “new.”

Now we are the old timers and Jamesburg is no longer a vacation town. I guess everyone discovered the Jersey shore.

“He is working!” my sister whispers under her breath once we reach the grocery store. We walk through the automated doors that I once saw someone get stuck in before Stop N Shop took it over and put in a Starbucks. “Buy something.”

“We only have a twenty but ok.”

I buy something sweet and expensive. My sister bats her eyes at the barista. We walk away.

“He’s not that cute. It doesn’t even matter; I’m getting out of this small town next year anyway.” I guess she’s right, but that feeling is coming back to me; It’s not a small town anymore.

We forget to buy the onion and butter and instead use what is left of the $20 to buy life size Pilgrim and Indian balloons. We can’t wait to show Mom.

Community Connection

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