Notes from the home front

(concerning time on the road, family, and travel)

In Jacksonville, Florida, once again. My sister and I drove from New Jersey to Florida in two days. We stopped in Chapel Hill, North Carolina the first night of the trip and stayed with our cousins. They had the most lovely house–high ceilings, wood trim and warm wall colors, a loft above the kitchen, and a cozy guest room in which my sister and I slumbered.

My cousin is in the never-ending process of piecing together my paternal family tree, pinning down the origins of the name, Lombardi. We sat with him for two and a half hours as he unearthed the names and lineage of my grandfather’s parents and grandparents, cousins, uncles, aunts. As I sat beside him looking at pictures of our family, I saw my smile on my great-grandmother’s face–the way her head was pitched back, her chin jutting out, her toothy grin and wide eyes. It is the same smile that I have never been able to place because it doesn’t always feel as though it belongs on my face. The smile of my father was on an unknown boy standing with his siblings circa 1920. (Cousins of some sort or possibly our uncles when they were boys). And my brother was in every picture of my grandfather–his smile, his eyes, the entire structure of his face! (minus the nose, which is an artifact of our maternal father)

And there were other realizations as well. Us Lombardis, we are a good-looking family! All of the men in the photos were dapper, slicked back hair, and countless shots of the women, standing together in flapper garb on the rooftops of houses in Queens and New York City. Another: We are creative people–artists, teachers, musicians, painters, writers.

We departed from Chapel Hill the following morning and took state highway 501 South through North Carolina. A much welcomed break from the interstate. The road was quiet and curvy. The abandoned houses and gas stations covered in rust–weathered, silent, and becoming a part of the natural landscape they sit on. They are history, living history, like artifacts or the names and faces of my family.

(Special thanks to my cousin, Julien Lombardi, for the photos and insight).

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