Sunday, December 18, 2016

On Morristown, New Jersey

As far as I'm concerned, Morristown, New Jersey, my birthplace, is significant for three reasons, listed here in increasing levels of importance:

1. George Washington kept his headquarters in Morristown during the Revolutionary War.
2. Peter Dinklage was born in Morristown in 1969.
3. Philip Roth set part of American Pastoral in a town near Morristown.

I have no memory of Morristown. After my father's death, my family moved from New Jersey to Potomac, Maryland when I was two years and eight months old.

I won't go through the ways the absence of a father may have affected my way of being, for good or for ill, other than to say that if given the choice I would have preferred to have grown up with my father than otherwise, but that I also would have preferred to have grown up with no father than with some of my friends' fathers.

I probably would not have grown up in Potomac, Maryland, or the Washington, D.C.-area if my father had lived. There's a good chance I would have grown up in New Jersey.

That would have meant a different school system -- one that might not have had the amenities necessary for me to thrive -- a different group of friends with whom I may have developed stronger lifelong bonds, an environment that may have been less competitive but more bigoted and socially conservative, different libraries, different music, different museums, different parks, a different house with a different layout, different roads, different street signs, different creeks, different backyards through which to trespass, different congresspeople, different movie theaters, different ice-cream parlors, different levels of access to different relatives and family friends. It would have meant a different definition of "the city."

It would have meant an alternative life. I have no idea whether it would have been a happier or healthier one.

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