My dad called me this morning just to catch up, as he does most mornings. And most mornings we cover the same ground: how are you today, how is the family, what’s going on in your life, what’s going on at home, what’s going on in town. Since I talk to him all the time, there usually isn’t any big, catastrophic news that I don’t already know about that haphazardly happened to occur overnight. But this morning, there was one bit of information that caught me by surprise.
“Your brother’s moving back down to the island,” my dad said.
“For real?” I said.
“It’s pretty much a done deal.”
“I knew he was thinking about moving back down, but I didn’t know it was going to be soon,” I said. “What made him decide to speed up the process?”
“He missed home,” my dad said.
I remember when my brother wanted to get out of Wildwood. He chose a college in Virginia, placing him approximately four hours away. He said he wanted to experience other places besides our small town in New Jersey. He said he loved Wildwood, he loved the island and where we were from, but he just needed to get out for a while before he came back.
When it was time for me to start choosing colleges, I wanted the same thing. I was sick of the small town. I wanted to venture out and spread my wings somewhere completely new and unknown. But I was different. With me, I didn’t want to come back. Don’t get me wrong; Wildwood had a fond place in my heart. But wanting to be a journalist in a big city, I knew I’d never want to live there.
I remember the day I finally chose to attend East Carolina University. My brother and I were sitting on the back porch. By this time, he was out of college and on to graduate school in Pennsylvania and longing to come home. He was down for the weekend visiting with the family and was trying to get me to make a decision about school.
“I think I’m going down to North Carolina,” I said.
“I think you should,” my brother said. He started to sway in his rocking chair.
“I want to get away from here as far as possible,” I said.
“I think you should, Nat,” he said.
“Yeah, I do. You need to go out and experience another area. If you don’t, you’ll always regret it. And that way, you’ll eventually want to come back some day.”
“I don’t plan on coming back,” I said.
“You will. Look at me. I had the same itch as you to get out of this place. Now I can’t wait to move here.”
“I don’t think so.”
“That’ll change over the next couple of years,” my brother said. “There’s just something about this place that’s different from everywhere else. I don’t know what it is, but it’s different. In a good way.”
“I don’t know about that,” I said.
“You’ll understand someday.”
Three years later, my brother is finally moving back to the island—finally moving back to the place where it’s different from everywhere else—in a good way. And as for me, three years later, I’m a senior in college. And I think it’s pretty safe to say that I’ve cured my itch. I’ve been away from Wildwood for a few years now, but I always have that longing to return whenever I’m away for too long. I don’t know what it is, but there’s just something about this place that’s different from everywhere else. I don’t know what it is, but it’s different. In a good way. I think the time has come where I finally understand that. That someday is today.