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Posts Tagged ‘connecticut’

We quarreled when the rug was up. This went back to the threadbare days on the third floor, cold water for days, a walk in the park. Wan spring blossoms declared their independence. Garage doors paid forth their secrets onto muddy alleyways. The rug hung chilling and crooked off the back deck. And we quarreled.

“We cannot live the way you want,” I said, lighting a cigarette.

“You don’t want to,” she replied, her hand sidewise and angry on her front hip. “You just don’t want to.”

“Dammit,” I said, shushing the match with a wave of my wrist. “Let’s think about the money for a –”

” ‘Dammit!’ ” she exploded. “Always ‘dammit!’ What kind of home are we trying to build? Where did you learn respect?”

“Fine,” I would say, my voice tinged with the bitter cool of the spring breeze, and slip down the stairs …

… and there I was 30 years later, in a home with Japanese maples in the front yard and graduation gowns in the closets, success radiant from here to the avenue, the perfect backdrop to advertise life insurance and prudent mid-length sedans. And again the rug is up, soaking the sun off the back deck; and again we are arguing.

“Do you ever think about the consequences of your actions?” she challenges, her green eyes sparking.

“It was the right thing to do,” I sigh, tearing off a corner of the newspaper and twirling it into a ball between my fingers. “And to hell with the consequences.”

“We could lose everything. Everything,” she says, waving a nicotine-stained hand in the general direction of the kitchen.

I cannot resist the pounce: “Might we lose the blender? I could never face the LeRoys again if we lost the blender.”

She rises, fuming; but before she can speak I am out the door and down the back steps toward the garage. The lawn wants mowing, bless the all-silencing roar of the mower.

A wordless hour later, I am on the deck, rolling the rug into a semi-compliant log and muscling it back into the front room. It sprawls back into its familiar dimension, and in that instant, the afternoon light takes on an added warmth.

I am changing my undershirt and taking the afternoon pills when I hear her voice behind me: “I’m sorry. The way we get going sometimes, you’d never thought we’d been married this long.”

I do not say anything. There is nothing to say. We quarrel when the rug is up.

It has always been this way.

February 19, 1974. This work of purely speculative fiction inspired by no one in particular.

February 19, 1974. This work of purely speculative fiction inspired by no one in particular.

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I come from what I’d call a close-knit family. And, thinking about it, I think I owe some degree of that to geography.

My mom and dad grew up in the same city. They’re not from the same neighborhood, I don’t think — I’m pretty sure they didn’t go to high school together. But they both come from the same community.

(Mapquest tells me that the homes my grandparents lived in when I was a kid were less than two miles apart.)

This contributed to a cross-familial closeness that I’m not sure is present in families with broader geographical roots.

When I went to visit Stamford as a kid, we would stay with one set of grandparents, but always spend quality time with the other. The grandparents took turns hosting.

There was never a sense — at least not to me — that we had to work to balance our grandparental time, and never a sense that anyone felt left out. It seemed organic: A visit to one was a visit to both.

My parents’ parents also got along nicely. Again, maybe there were subtle tensions that a little kid wouldn’t catch; only my folks know for sure.

But by the time I came along, it was common for my dad’s folks to get invited to events on my mom’s side of the family, and for my mom’s folks to stop by Hope Street for a dinner or other occasion.

This week’s calendar entry features one such occasion — another link in the knot that binds a close-knit family together.

April 27, 1974.

April 27, 1974. The Yanks come out on the short end of a seven-hitter thrown by David Clyde, who is nineteen years and five days old.

The event, on an unseasonably warm day, was the wedding of my cousin John and his wife, Maria.

John is the son of my maternal grandpa’s brother. I don’t know as he was that close to my paternal grandparents. But by 1974 — seven years after my folks got married — those grandparents were woven strongly enough into the family fabric to get an invite to a wedding on the other side of the family.

Being in a close family has its obligations, of course. I imagine my paternal grandpa might have spent April 27, 1974, working in his garden or washing his car, rather than putting on a suit and going to a wedding.

Still — given the million ugly ways in which dysfunctional families can shatter and wound — it is infinitely better to have the obligations of a close family than the pains of a distant one.

I’m glad to report that John and Maria’s 40th anniversary is coming up this spring. They are grandparents themselves now, and just hosted their kids and grandkids at a family get-together a couple of weeks ago.

My mom and dad were there, too. All these years later, the family ties still exist.

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This pic doesn’t have anything to do with the family-ties narrative, but I’m adding it anyway ’cause it’s so great. This is my dad on April 27, 1974, outside Stamford’s Sacred Heart Church after the wedding. The violin is my mom’s, the briefcase probably has organ music in it, and the camera is well-protected against the elements.

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We’ve already established that my grandpa was a space buff, chronicling American missions on his calendar throughout the 1960s and ’70s.

There’s a Cape Canaveral-sized hole in his calendar in April 1970, when the Apollo 13 mission narrowly escaped becoming America’s first outer-space catastrophe.

Given that the fate of Apollo 13 made worldwide headlines, I am surprised that my grandfather made no written reference to it.

Maybe he was too absorbed in it to write anything down. Or maybe he didn’t write anything down in the middle of the ordeal because he was afraid of how it would end, and he didn’t look forward to having to record the worst-case.

In any event, the three men aboard Apollo 13 made it home safely.

And the next time Americans went into space, about 10 months later, my grandpa was back on board with them, so to speak.

February 5 and 6, 1971.

February 5 and 6, 1971. It was not sleeting and raining on the moon, presumably.

Maybe space buffs can rattle off facts about the Apollo 14 mission off the tops of their heads.

But I don’t know much about it myself, except that the mission went more or less as planned, and America presumably breathed a big sigh of relief.

(There were a few potentially significant mechanical issues, but the astronauts and Mission Control managed to iron them out together; I don’t know to what extent they were publicized at the time.)

Wiki tells me that Apollo 14 was captained by Sixties space pioneer Alan Shepard, who became the only one of the original Mercury astronauts to walk (and play golf) on the moon.

I also learned that I’ve been in the same parking lot with a memento of the mission. Astronaut Stuart Roosa brought hundreds of seeds along, which sprouted back on Earth into what were called “Moon trees.”

One of the Moon trees was planted outside the police station of a little town in Massachusetts where I used to live. Presumably, barring lightning strikes or other catastrophe, it is there to this day.

Apollo 14 returned to Earth without incident on Feb. 9, and my grandpa was glad to record its arrival.

After the near-tragedy of the previous flight, it was — as the British say — a restoration of normal service.

February 9, 1971.

February 9, 1971.

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Over the years, I’ve used my grandfather’s calendar entries to follow him to all kinds of long-closed businesses.

There was Stamford’s beloved Chimney Corner Inn … the Clam Box in Wethersfield, a heavenly-sounding family-owned seafood place … a Red Coach Grill chain restaurant in Framingham, Massachusetts … and the expensive-but-worth-it Carriage House in Westport, just to name a few.

It’s kinda nice to come across a place on his calendars that’s still in operation, under its original name, all these years later.

It’s like a minor connection to his world — and a reminder that, while the retail world is fleeting and capricious, a few businesses do it well enough to really last.

June 6, 1973.

June 6, 1973. The Yanks, winners today over Texas, are only a half-game back.

New Hampshire has only 13 miles of coastline (18 by some measurements), so I figured Amarante’s had to be one of a relative few restaurants lucky enough to nestle in. Must be some of the state’s most expensive real estate, I figured. Did the food match the view?

I was totally off the mark, of course. “N.H.,” in this case, meant New Haven, just up the coast from my grandparents, a city they’d visited when my Aunt Elaine went to school at what was then Southern Connecticut State College.

And it was my Aunt Elaine they were once again meeting there — this time, I’m guessing, to scout out the potential site of a wedding reception.

Amarante’s, unlike the places I listed above, isn’t a restaurant. It’s a wedding and function hall overlooking the ocean, in the Morris Cove area on the east side of the city’s harbor.

Apparently, the place did well enough at the June 6 visit to win over my family and get the gig.

August 17 and 18, 1973.

August 17 and 18, 1973. Hope they remembered the napkins.

Serpe Bros., the tuxedo shop mentioned in my grandpa’s August 17 entry, is still in business on Bedford Avenue in Stamford.

And Amarante’s, now known as Amarante’s Sea Cliff, is still serving up chicken piccata and “Brick House” to a whole new generation of southern Connecticut brides and grooms after more than 50 years.

I’ve not been there myself, so I couldn’t endorse the place, but they must be doing something right. It takes some degree of skill to keep any service business going that long, no matter how good the location.

I’ve wondered before about how much, or how little, my grandfather would recognize if he were able to visit his old stomping grounds today.

Change is inevitable — and often for the better. But it’s still kinda cool to find out about a place he’d know, and a place where he (presumably) had a good time while marking a major family event.

Although I’ve never been to Amarante’s, I can sort of imagine my grandfather looking out across New Haven harbor in his rented gladrags, munching a plate of cheese and crackers, and smiling.

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This week’s calendar entry finds my grandfather casting his eyes across the country, while my grandma keeps hers focused across the street.

February 8, 1974.

February 8, 1974. Apologies for the poor-quality photo.

My grandma, the soul of practicality, is reminding herself to bake a cake for church on Sunday, two days later. (My grandparents and great-grandma went to a church across the street from their house.)

If I wanted to make a cake in her style, I imagine something basic from Joy of Cooking would probably do it. No seven layers of red velvet need apply.

I remember her more for her pies — blueberry, in particular — than her cakes. But February in Connecticut isn’t blueberry season. So, cake it was. Probably a sheet cake of some sort, with a modest coating of frosting.

I do have one of her cake recipes in my collection, for a chocolate zucchini cake. I don’t believe I’ve ever made it. I’m too slack to transcribe it, but anyone who wants to click the following pictures to their full size can probably read it.

The front side.

The front side.

The back side.

The back side.

The church whose congregants once enjoyed my grandma’s sheet cake is still there, though it seems to have a slim grasp on its history. They’re welcome to mention my grandma’s cake if they want.

Meanwhile, my grandpa is recording, in some detail, the gas rationing plan that took effect that day in a state where he did not live and certainly wasn’t going to drive through any time soon.

Perhaps he saw the rationing plan (or perhaps it was presented by the media) as a model that other states would eventually adopt. Maybe that’s why he paid so much attention to it.

Or, maybe he was just genuinely struck by the idea of rationing a product he’d always taken for granted.

(Not necessarily true: He’d lived through World War II, when any number of things were rationed. So the idea of rationing, in and of itself, would not have been foreign to him. Maybe he was caught by the idea that it needed to happen in peacetime.)

As best I can determine, Connecticut never put gas rationing in place during the 1973-74 energy crisis.

So my grandpa never had to remember whether his license plate was odd or even — though, knowing him, I bet he could have rattled it off anyway.

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It was even.

The New York Times archives say Connecticut, along with New York and New Jersey, did adopt odd-even rationing in the early summer of 1979. We don’t have my grandfather’s calendar for that year, though I imagine he took plentiful notes of the restrictions, their start and their finish.

Rationing also came to the Nutmeg State two years ago, long after my grandpa’s passing, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. It will probably come again someday. Maybe I’ll blog about it then, upholding my grandfather’s tradition of marking things that have nothing to do with my daily life.

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