but there will be trees missing and new traffic lights.
We did the 700 mile round trip to Connecticut this week for Thanksgiving at my brother’s house. He’s a great cook and graciously agreed to host 15 of us who found his Northwest Connecticut home to be the middle place between our starting points in Pennsylvania, Maine, Boston, and southern Connecticut. My brother lives just 10 minutes away from the town in which my husband and I lived and raised our family for 30 years in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s… and my other brother lives right down the street from our old house. Just a stone’s throw away from our old village of Collinsville (a sweet old mill town on the river) is the larger town of Farmington where we all lived together in our growing-up years.
Our Thanksgiving group was made the better with the addition of my brothers’ partners, a niece and three nephews, my brother’s partners’ daughter and her boyfriend, my sister, my son, my sister’s husband, and sweet “Hamlet” (otherwise known as “Brownie,”) a French bulldog.
The table was full: two turkeys, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes- everything that you’d expect, with some nice seasonal additions like broccoli casserole and roasted whole carrots, and one “interloper item:” a saffron rice dish with orange peel, almonds and cranberries. (I made that.)
We had pie and listened to a playlist that my nephew had lovingly curated and titled “Old People Music” with plenty of Little Feat, Crosby Stills and Nash, Bonnie Raitt and James Taylor. We laughed at clips that we called up on the giant tv screen from some of our favorite movies – “My mama would say, ‘Harlan Pepper, if you don’t stop namin’ nuts’…” (Best in Show). We drank Old Fashioneds and wine and laughed.
We went for a walk in a nature preserve. The rain stopped and delivered a beautiful rainbow.
It was just right.
On the morning of the second day, my hubby and I took a drive to our old town. It’s a strange sensation- I can’t quite put my finger on it. Driving down the street where we lived for so long I felt disconsolate. Wistful. The house- a 1920s red bungalow- looked ok. The hedge between “our” yard and the neighbors had grown huge and unruly. The copper rain chain that I had reluctantly left in place on the front right corner of the house was gone. The brick patio still needed to be leveled and repaired, and the hemlock in the back yard that was one half of our hammock support had been cut down. I gathered all of these observations silently as my husband drove us slowly down the narrow neighborhood road. Good news: the maple tree that we planted just before we moved in the front yard was doing well.
We wandered around the small town, first skirting its perimeter- we drove past the town dump, that Saturday morning gathering place where all important community news is shared; we drove over the newly restored town bridge (the historic 1895 truss bridge had been removed for a couple of years for repair and had recently been reinstalled), and we were sad to see a new 8-foot tall fence blocking access to the river underneath the bridge. That spot had long been a favorite swimming hole on hot summer nights. It was a rite of passage to jump off the bridge into the water below, though not particularly safe.
We drove through town observing the new traffic light at the crossroad and went up the steep and winding hill to the town cemetery, my favorite place to view the sleepy village that squats at the river’s edge. Some day I will be buried in that cemetery.
It’s a strange thing in an hour’s drive to entertain memories, observe changes, and reflect on the narrowing window of time left in one’s life. There is, in this retrospective, the remembering of misteps, the recognition of rewards, the living with decisions that we made in good faith, and a few “what ifs?” There is the bond of our life together that was crafted somewhat haphazardly- though some might want to call it “Spirit led.” There is an appreciation, now, for the friendships, strength, and vitality of our younger years that we did not fully understand as precious, then. And there is regret at some shortness of vision, and an occasional yielding to convention when a different way might have been better.
I think, in all of it, that we did the best we could. And life, in return, was gracious and generous.
We did “go home.” And, we will be back. But there are still many miles to go before we sleep. Grandchildren on a different coast. Hikes to take, gardens to plant, beaches to walk. So much, yet, to unfold.