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Back in the Buff

5 Jun

Niagara Falls

This last weekend, I met up with my family in Buffalo, New York to bring my grandfather’s ashes to my aunt’s and grandmother’s graves.

I left Buffalo when I was 11-years-old, and this was my first journey back. I was curious as to what it would feel like, what I would remember. It turns out I remember very little. We visited old homes, drove by old churches, and I had faint recollections of different moments of my childhood. I’ve written before about the idea of home. I still feel envious of people who have a hometown or a place that they can return to and restore themselves. I lived in Reno for 8 odd years, but now that city feels like the place my parents and a couple of friends live. Buffalo is an even larger abstraction to me.

One thing that is important to mention is that I’m not actually from Buffalo proper, I’m from a suburb called Williamsville, and that is where we spent the majority of the weekend. Williamsville is frankly adorable. Lots of open spaces, parks, a main street full of little shops and unique restaurants, a dog groomer called “Oh, You Dirty Dog” and a funeral home called “Am I Gone”  for instance. I didn’t see too many chains, noticed no graffiti, and all the homes looked well-kept.

We drove up and down the streets we used to know, everyone reminiscing. The second house I lived in was two blocks from my grandparent’s house, and driving down that street, I can remember riding my tricycle in the dusky evenings after dinner, my grandmother meeting us halfway, waving at our little family.

The Fourth Home

Our fourth home appeared in front of me in an eerie way, like a dream. I suppose I did spend my first couple of years in Nevada dreaming that I was back in the house we called “Green Gables” for obvious reasons. I knew it existed in the world, but I didn’t expect it to be so exactly the way it looked when we left.

I felt like an amnesia patient being shone pictures from the past. Every memory felt like it was on the tip of my tongue, yet I couldn’t name it, couldn’t understand the distance between myself and what had happened there.

At one point, one of the members of my small four-person immediate family said something about how they wondered what our lives would have been like if we hadn’t moved across the continent to live in the desert, who would we be now. We all quietly agreed that it is something we’ve often thought about. Two completely different lives.

It was a sad and strange weekend. I’ve never spread someone’s ashes before, and I had never actually visited the grave site of my aunt and grandmother before. It was also a lovely weekend. I got to go on the Maid of the Mist with my parents, a boat ride right up to the horseshoe falls at Niagara, so beautiful, so much mist and power. I ate a foot long at my favorite hot dog stand IN THE WORLD. Old Man Rivers. My mother and I had a much needed heart-to-heart over Pina Coladas at the hotel bar. There’s nothing like your mom reassuring you that everything is going to be okay. We gorged on insanely hot wings at Duff’s, again the best Buffalo wing place IN THE WORLD. We laughed with each other, we talked about the past, we talked about our presents. There weren’t any fights or bickering this time, we were one big happy family, and it was an amazing weekend with them.

Duff’s

Buffalo is by no stretch of the imagination glamorous. It’s a busted boom city with a couple of humble neighborhoods. But for a long time it was home, and a part of my heart still resides there. A part of my heart that I was happy to visit one more time.

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