Research Trip: Nutley, New Jersey

I was in Nutley, New Jersey to explore a corner of someone’s life. A dimmed corner of a life and a time I’d only heard stories about. I was in Nutley to seek evidence that the stories were true. I was expecting to find nothing of value. I was expecting to be turned away. I figured at the very least I’d have a good cup of coffee and some exercise.

Nutley at first, with its beautiful parks, nice little library, and local sub shop, felt like any other quaint little town I’d visited. But then it felt like more. The more I explored, the more comfortable and relaxed I got. Nutley was different. Friendlier. And it wasn’t just the strangers who walked past me and said hello. When I asked the owner of the sub shop for bus directions back to the Port Authority, he went out of his way to write them out for me. When I realized I forgot my ID at the library after spending the better part of an afternoon searching through old yearbooks, the reference librarian recognized me as soon as I walked in and said, “I was looking for you!” as if we were old friends and not just two strangers who’d just met earlier that day and barely exchanged ten words apiece.

Within that town’s library I found a little physical proof, but the real value for me was walking the same trails and sidewalks I knew she must’ve walked fifty years ago. I found her in the calm water, in the weeping willow tree, I saw her riding her bike up and down the trails and eating an Italian sub with oil and vinegar, salt and pepper. In Nutley I finally found her.