birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Hometown Orphan

My hometown. My home town. When it comes to a hometown, I feel a bit like an orphan. From the Garden State, like The Boss, we moved away from a big extended Italian family, out to the 'burbs, when I was just a wee baby. Away from the family network of aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and great grands. They say cousins are your first friends. We didn't have that. We had a great neighborhood, full of kids, few families on our street had fewer than five kids. We played in the street, even though there was an athletic field (A-field we called it) just through the woods, we sled down the back hill, we road bikes all over. But we didn't have that important family network close-by. We grew up hearing about how mom and one or two of her hoards of cousins skipped school, elementary school at that, and road bikes into NYC and spent the day in museums, eating 5 cent hot dogs, getting their lessons in exciting ways. Not until just a few years ago, I learned that my dad's mother offered to help buy that house. The two of them, grandmother and dad, plotted and planned without even consulting our mother. Why they thought it was a good idea to move us away from such an important support network, I'll never understand.

At 14 our parents split up. Mom shuffled us kids down to Miami, F L A. By then her own brother was there and her mom, yet she and her mom were always at odds, so it was curious at why we moved there, so much further away from the rest of the family. Miami was different, to say the least. It was huge, even though there were different sections, different neighborhoods, it never felt much like a community. We lived on a busy street with the 40 MPH sign right there on the pole outside our stucco house. No playing in that street. Fourteen was an awkward age. Mom worked so much that I don't really see how she would have had time to build a network or help weave us into the community. Non of this was in my consciousness while it was happening, but looking back, it all really makes me tremendously sad.

Now, living in the 'Deep South', I see people who grew up here and stayed. They have the family ties, that I now feel are so important. I've been to a family reunion a few years ago and listened to our older cousins, the ones that got to grow up around each other, the great aunts and uncle who are left, tell tales of earlier times. And again I feel like an orphan. We were the family that moved away. I don't feel the connections. I'm a hometown orphan.

Your New Favorite Person

Sweet Home