During the three-day drive back from Canada, I made a stop in Waterford, a suburb of New London, Connecticut where I spent ages 6-10. Connecticut, by the way, is a most unfriendly state to travelers. There was no welcome center at the state line; the rest areas were horrible and it was clear that tourist amenities must have been high on the state’s list of budget cuts.
We arrived in late afternoon and first pulled up our old house (see Veeka in blue standing in front) at 10 Leary Drive where we accidentally met the current residents who invited us in to see the house. Since our stay there from 1962-1966, a new wing had been added to the back of the house and everything had been remodeled. It was amazing to see the old den, the old fireplace, my old room (where a little boy now lives) that had so many memories to it. The dining room, which is where my mother did all her homework for her master’s thesis (we had no home office). The stone wall to one side of the property where I must have sat as a kid. The trees I climbed up so I could find a perch to read. Yes, I literally read up in trees.
I dropped by some old neighbors who, amazingly, still lived across the street and updated myself a bit on who still lived where as I had not seen the place since my family came back for a quick visit in 1970. The man who had owned the blueberry bushes and who had paid us a quarter for each basket of berries we picked on cool early summer mornings had long since died. But the bushes were still there. The house where the mentally ill boy had lived was there but abandoned. The house where a nasty girl had lived who tormented me from first grade through third grade was still there. A lot of the woods where I once wandered alone to watch for birds (remember the days when kids could wander about alone and no one thought anything of it?) had been built up partly but there was still quite a few patches of trees, some of which I swung on as a kid. Veeka and I were amazed to see tons of deer walking about and even a fox.
We drove past my old elementary school which had recently been totally rebuilt and down Nichols Lane to Pleasure Beach where we used to swim. Just for fun, Veeka and I put on our suits and jumped in the water, as we were both pretty sweaty and it was sheer fun sitting in the sand under a summer July sky and remembering back to when I was her age. We moved to Connecticut from Maryland when I was 6. We drove up and down Quarry Road and Great Neck Road, down Shore Road past old haunts like Magonk Point and finally to Harkness Memorial State Park where the trees I’d sat under as a 10-year-old were still there. Unfortunately the restrooms were putrid – more state budget cuts? – and the sun was setting, so we drove to Lisa’s Landing on Niantic Bay for the last seafood dinner of the trip.
Our time back here has been more prosaic. Unfortunately I broke my toe the next day as I was unloading the car upon arriving home so it’s been a painful few weeks since then while I’ve been limping about. My little fashion plate daughter in her new red sunglasses given by her cousin Christina is enjoying being back with her little friends. And we’ve had lots of rain this weekend, which gives some hope to my parched yard and half-dead plants.