Along the Delaware River, sits a town of about 5000 people, that would be a perfect little secret if it hadn’t been getting write ups in national publications such as being named the “5th most quirky” town in America a few weeks ago in Travel and Leisure Magazine.
The town has changed, arguably drastically, in the last 20 years. This town could be a lot of things to those that look at it. It’s a river getaway, it’s a charming place chock full of antique stores, art galleries, restaurants and shops. It’s a throw-back town, with old school architecture, playgrounds, and an elementary school that has only a few hundred attendees, or less.
It is also a town of memories, a town that housed my dreams and ambitions, and a town of opportunity. It’s a town where I was able to grow up part one of the last generations that was pushed by a whole community. A town called Lamberville, New Jersey.
Lambertville is my youth. It has been my failure, when I was made to come back without a college degree. It became my savior, when I started to coach and work with kids and I realized that I like to help people. It is now a place where I feel as comfortable as I ever did, even though I know that I needed to leave.
The memories are endless. It all starts with growing up on Union Street in my grandmother’s house. I remember playing GI Joe’s with friend and running around the yards next to the house, and setting up a fort in the front bushes. It was cool and all, but I knew my army training was useless, because at 8 years old I was certain I would end up flying an F-14, and going to Miramar. Nerf football games on the side streets were rarely interrupted by cars, but sometimes would be by other kids passing by to go play a different sport up the street. Wiffleball was fun, but taping up the bat and grabbing a tennis ball made for the best afternoons. Sure, there were breaks for Nintendo, but not so when they stocked trout in the canal 2 blocks from my house!
On Sundays I would attend St. John’s Catholic Church with my grandmother. I would beg to leave “right after communion” so I could get an early table at Sneddon’s Luncheonette across the street before the hordes of people made me wait to get some cottage fries. Up the street I could always stop in Ennis’ Markey and see my Aunt Bonny, knowing a plain turkey and cheese, and a Stewart’s root beer was in play. A few blocks away near Main and Swan was Phil and Dan’s where I ordered “pencil points with butter” almost instinctively, to the point where they would start making them when I walked in with my father. Paesano’s had some of the best pizza, and the Italian sausage was the perfect topping. Yet, nothing beat the best meal of all, after my grandmother would make some Italian red sauce for 10-12 hours, throwing in homemade meatballs, sausage, and chicken legs.
I met my first friends somewhere in this town. I had my first sleepovers, I had my first dates. I had my first kiss. I drove my first car (poorly). Hence, I crashed my first car (a lot). I took part in numerous stupid acts, I took part in some smart ones. I laughed with friends until 3 in the morning just talking about stories from girls, or from classes or sports. I got reamed out of the football field for being a “dumb smart kid.” I learned what it meant to grow up. I learned what it meant to fail when I had to come back. I learned what it meant to be part of team, to be at the head of one, when I coached.
I learned that I grew up in one of the best places to grow up, in America. I learned that it wasn’t where my growth ends. I learned that I had multiple sclerosis while living here shortly before heading to California.
I came back here in the summer of 2012, for a few days, when my ear nose and throat doctor told me that I had “something” showing up in my brain that looked like MS or a tumor. I came back in 2009 when my ex-girlfriend was the first person to break my heart for a short time before we got back together. I came back last year after breaking my ankle so severely it was facing sideways.
I came back today as I struggle and strive to live a life that I have always dreamed of.
I’m happy I’m here, and I will be around town for the next two weeks. I’ll live in the past, surely, but I can’t wait for Lambertville to meet present me.