Can I just tell you? It's been a very emotional couple of days for me, surprisingly so.
My husband's family got together for their (sort of) annual family reunion over the weekend. If your family has one of those, then you know it's often kind of a bittersweet experience.
Sweet because you get to see how everybody is doing, especially the kids. It's amazing to see how much they change from year to year, and it is an important reminder that hope is never wasted on a child. This year, many of the high school kids were talking about college, among them a few, who, shall we say, did not always demonstrate a love of learning. Among our number was a gung-ho young Marine debating whether to pursue officer training, an actor with two movies under his belt, a pair of inseparable newlyweds — both artists pursuing their dreams — and our newly graduated M.D. And, the little boy who served as ring bearer in our wedding now towers over all of us. It was especially sweet to see him take the little boys under his wing, playing kickball and even letting them think they were winning.
But, as I said, the bitter comes with the sweet, and there was that, too.
There were many folks struggling with and through all the trials of aging — sickness, disappointment, the deaths of friends and loved ones. One family member lost her father just a day before the get together. She mentioned it only as people were leaving, but added it has done her tremendous good to be with family at a time like that.
And now, here I am back here in my hometown, all grown up. As I said to my friend Leslie, earlier in the broadcast it is strange to be from and have left a place so many people are trying to get to. But after so many years in broadcasting, I confess, it is interesting how being on the air someplace makes you feel as though you belong there, even when you are not there.
I have to tell you there is something about being on the air in the place where you grew up. It is too hilarious. I think about all the times my father made me listen to William B. Williams spin Sinatra records on New York's WNEW. If I have this right, I remember he would always end the record by saying, "thank you, Francis." And then there were all the times we kids would try to get him to listen to our stations — to Frankie Crocker and Bob Law and Vy Higginson, and WLIB and WBLS and others. We plan to talk more about radio, who is on it and who is not, later in the week.
But back to coming home. So much has been written and said about whether you can come home again ... whether you should even try. I think one reason people have such a hard time coming home is that they expect it to be whatever it is that they left and, of course, it isn't. It can't be. The people you left behind are moving on just as you are, and that can be for good or ill, but it is what it is.
When I went by my childhood haunts yesterday I noticed some great things — some new homes being built, run down places being fixed up, new businesses both big and small. There were signs of movement, and, of course, I saw the things that always drove me crazy — people living too close to the edge, without enough hope or help. And passing that anger or despair onto the next generation. It seems to me that the trick to being home is just that, to accept it as it is, not how you wish it had been or how you want it to be, but as it is. And when you do that, you're not just home. You belong.
Thanks, New York, for welcoming me back.