Posts Tagged ‘anniversary’

No sooner does one member leave the extended family than another (bless her) joins it.

May’s a big month for weddings; and by and large, the men in my immediate family seem to favor it.

Not sure there’s any deep-seated reason for that. Maybe we all want to get things over with as soon as the weather’s favorable, and early enough that our summers stay free. Or maybe, generation after generation, some occult hand keeps our venues of choice free in May so we can each find an open date.

Anyway, my older brother is the latest to board the May train. By the time you read this, he will be two days married. I am flying out to San Francisco to be there for the big day, and am much looking forward to it. (The big day, not the flying.)

I’ve been on the same train a while myself. Two days after this post goes live, I will mark my 20th wedding anniversary. My wife and I were only a year out of college when we got married, and I suspect we chose our date so our friends who were still in school could come out and join us before they scattered for the summer.

My grandpa and grandma picked the first half of May as well, for reasons lost to history. They were married for almost 60 years.

This week’s calendar entry finds them at the same point in time I’m at now:


May 3, 1961. I wonder where they went out to eat.

I would love to be able to tell you how to make a marriage last for 20 years, much less 60, but I am devoid of wisdom or vision. I just get up every morning and go to sleep every night and somehow the years go by.

(Of course, many of my readers have been married longer than I have and have no need for my advice. I’m just saying that I searched my soul and found nothing. It’s happened before.)

My brother and his wife invited their friends and siblings to share their thoughts on love and marriage — to email them to the celebrant for inclusion in the ceremony. My thoughts didn’t figure into it, because I couldn’t come up with any.

I briefly considered inventing a friend for Eric and sending in something absurdly flowery: “Eric’s friend Hassan says, ‘Love is like a welter of gleaming pearls, radiant in their brilliance. No, diamonds!'” But then I decided that pranking my brother’s wedding ceremony was probably a classless thing to do, so I kept my mouth shut. Except on my blog.

I dunno. Maybe there isn’t a fancy formula or mission statement that captures the soul of marriage. Maybe it’s different for everybody. Or maybe the secret is buried so deep in the stream of days and months that it’s hard to see.

At any rate, whatever it takes to keep two people happy together and pulling in the same direction, I hope my brother and his wife discover it together.

And I hope it only seems like months before they go out for their own 20th anniversary.


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We all know what happens to a dream deferred — or what might happen to it, anyway.

This week, we’ll use up some words (it’s cool, they’re free) asking the same question about dreams that get abandoned.

What happens to a wedding anniversary after the divorce?

It’s supposed to be a date dearer to us than any other, except for children’s birthdays. We put effort into rendering it indelible.

And then, the change comes.

Perhaps an uncelebrated anniversary chafes and stings its principals all day. Or maybe it only raises its head once or twice, a minor irritant, like a cough stuck in the gullet or a passing cloudstorm.

Perhaps, given enough time and will, it disappears entirely.

I imagine there are always reminders, though. Too many pictures get taken, and too many words get put on paper, to ever be fully excised.

June 19, 1972.

June 19, 1972. The Mets get one-hit.

This is the second straight week I’ve mentioned my cousin Bob, and the second straight week I’ve mentioned his (long-ago) divorce.

I don’t think he reads this; but if he does, I assure him it’s coincidental and not personal.

I was trolling the archives for blog-fodder, and this old mention of his anniversary brought to mind thoughts of faded dreams, frustration and resignation.

Not his faded dreams, specifically — I don’t know them, and I wouldn’t repeat them to the world if I did.

I’m thinking more generally of the hopesĀ  of millions of people who pledged their futures together and then, for any combination of reasons, turned away again.

Think of all those unopened (maybe even trashed) wedding albums, and all those promises, and all those shared memories that seem in retrospect like they couldn’t possibly have been that happy.

(Think, too, that walking away from each other is in some cases the correct decision. The intent of this is not to lecture those whose dreams change course on them, but to ponder what the old ones mean after they run out of steam.)

I am no authority on divorce, and neither were the Blumenaus of Hope Street (married almost 60 years) or their children (each past 40 years).

But an uncounted number of Americans — hundreds? thousands? — will, at some point today, remember what this day was supposed to mean to them.

Everything put together falls apart, as the song says. There is no single answer to how we all learn the lesson, or what it means to each of us after we do.

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Yeah, I think this week we’re going out to eat again.

Last year around this time, we dropped in on my grandparents in May 1969, as they marked their wedding anniversary with a splurgey meal in the upscale town of Westport.

This year we revisit them six years later to the day. They are still married, of course, and still committed to going out for their anniversary.

But some things have changed: My grandpa is retired now, and has a little less money to throw around. He’s probably watching what he eats a little bit more, too.

For this year’s celebration, they stay a little closer to home, choosing a Stamford institution for their big dinner:

May 3, 1975.

May 3, 1975.

A little searching on the Internet, and the place starts coming alive:

The Stamford Advocate tells us the Chimney Corner did business for 41 years at Long Ridge and Webbs Hill roads, and was particularly popular among elderly diners for its early-bird specials.

This undated, unused postcard brings us inside the main dining room, decorated in an early American style.

This ’50s-era postcard shows us the distinctive slope of the building’s exterior, as well as a landmark depiction of a horse and sleigh that stood over the parking lot entrance until somebody knocked it over.

This matchbook tells me my grandparents would have called Davis 2-1264 to make a reservation. (Well, OK, not by 1975 they wouldn’t have.)

This sugar cube tells us … well, it doesn’t really lend any historical insight per se, but it’s sorta fun to imagine my grandma putting one in her coffee. (There was a time when sugar didn’t come from sealed paper envelopes, apparently.)

And this article from the New York Times (which may be trapped behind the Gray Lady’s paywall for non-subscribers) fills us in on what became of the place: Most of it was torn down in 1991 to make way for a shopping center. The corner of the building with the namesake chimney was retained, apparently as some sort of tie to the past.

Pretty sure

This building is where the Chimney Corner was. It has three chimneys now, and I don’t think the one in the photo is the one they kept. (There’s space available, if anyone’s looking to sublet.) Photo courtesy Google Earth.

The one thing I can’t find online is a menu that would help me get a sense of what my grandparents would have sat down to on May 3, 1975. (I do find a past eBay listing of an old menu, but wouldn’t you know it, it’s closed. The menu. Not the auction. Well, yeah, both, actually.)

I note that the New York Times’ archives do not include any reviews of the Chimney Corner Inn — unlike the Westport restaurant where my grandparents ate in 1969, which received a NYT review a number of years later.

If the Chimney Corner Inn was around for 41 years and New York’s paper of record never went to the ‘burbs to check it out, its culinary reputation couldn’t have been too noteworthy.

I’m guessing the place was one of those stolid, upright, not-tremendously-creative locally owned restaurants every city has — the sort of place you go for high school graduations or anniversaries that don’t end in zero or five. I imagine they broiled a lot of prime rib, stuffed a lot of pork chops and baked a lot of potatoes over the course of 41 years.

There’s not necessarily anything wrong with that, of course, if that’s what you’re looking for.

It seems to have struck a chord with my grandparents: A little further research indicates they’d been there the year before.

May 2-4, 1974.

May 2-4, 1974. Hey, Rod, you didn’t call.

I guess predictable and reliable are good things to be after 30-plus years of marriage — whether you’re talking about the marriage, or the place you go to celebrate it.

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The approximate location of 1107 Hope Street, spring 2013. Courtesy Google Earth.

This post was originally scheduled for April 15, more or less the second anniversary of Hope Street. But it seemed dreadfully slack to ask people to vote for me in a blog contest and then take a week off. So my week off will wait … until now.

I think I’m going to continue the tradition I established last year, and mark this blog’s anniversary by taking a week off.

Doesn’t seem like two years since I started doing this, but indeed it is.

It’s been an interesting 12 months here at Hope Street. See, I front-loaded the first year with the calendar entries that seemed to offer the easiest blog posts, as well as those that seemed to be the grabbiest for a non-family audience.

As time goes on, the calendar entries I have to work with tend to be more open-ended — which means the posts tend to be more about me, and more impressionistic, and more creative, as opposed to being recaps of some specific moment in family history.

Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t. (But look on the bright side: At least I haven’t written any more of my awful poetry lately.)

I’ve still got a bunch of calendar entries saved up. Some of ’em will be more interesting than others, of course. But if you like it here, be assured we’ll keep doing this for a while yet.

I appreciate all those who follow the blog and read every week, or even some weeks. I’m not sure why you do it sometimes, but it’s nice of you.

The usual grovel is still in effect: If you like what you read, please consider sharing a link on Twitter, Facebook or any other social media in which you participate. Hope Street remains a strictly noncommercial thoroughfare; I’m only in it for the eyeballs.

Perhaps you will enjoy revisiting (or, if you’re new here, reading for the first time) what I consider my greatest hits from the past 12 months:

I’ll be back with more next Monday (unless I get guilty about taking a week off and decide to post something else in midweek.)

Be good.

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Shine your city shoes and get your fancy suit pressed. We’re gonna step out in style this week.

I don’t think of my grandfather as a big spender. He, my grandma and great-grandma were stay-at-home sorts, by and large, who didn’t go in for a lot of swank or ostentation.

Once a year, though, my grandpa would open his wallet and spring for a meal somewhere really nice. That annual occasion was his anniversary, which is kind of quietly classy.

This week, we find my grandpa mingling with the horsey set, and digging deep for the privilege:

May 3, 1969.

This meal would have found my grandpa at a particular high-water mark in his life.

In May 1969, he was still employed by Time-Life in Stamford. The older of his two kids was married and out of the house, reducing his stresses and obligations as provider. He had a nice new ride, having purchased another of his beloved Fords earlier in 1969. And, he wouldn’t have his first heart attack for another two years.

So, all things considered, life would have been pretty good for him at that moment in time.

Good enough, anyway, for him to venture into one of America’s wealthiest communities for a spot of dinner. Paul Newman already had a place in town when my grandparents went to Westport to eat. Keith Richards and Martha Stewart would show up a little later.

The Carriage House restaurant, at 1200 Post Road East in Westport, might have boasted its own share of star power.

The Wikipedia entry for veteran actress, producer, playwright and bonne vivante Haila Stoddard indicates that Stoddard founded a restaurant called the Carriage House in Westport in the late 1960s.

(Is there a formal definition for the term bon vivant? Is it pretty much just somebody who laughs a lot and knows how to order in French bistros?)

But a 1979 New York Times restaurant review of the Carriage House described it as “long a Westport landmark,” which doesn’t sound like an appropriate description for a restaurant open a decade. So I’m not sure whether my grandparents went to Stoddard’s Carriage House, or some other, longer-established Carriage House.

A Google search only muddies the matter. There appear to be a bunch of carriage houses in Westport, some of which can be yours for a cool seven figures.

At any rate: Given the moneyed setting of Westport, it’s no surprise that my grandpa annotated his calendar entry with a dollar sign. I’m sure it cost him considerably more than he was used to paying for a night out.

On the bright side, his use of “excellent” suggests that the meal, service and atmosphere were worth the price of admission.

I would love to know what he ordered for his big splurge-dinner, and what it cost.

Unfortunately, I can’t find any traces of the late-’60s Carriage House online — no menu, no pictures, no nothin’.

The 1979 restaurant review — it’s here, behind a paywall — said the restaurant closed for a year due to construction, but had returned with a New Orleans-influenced menu. The Good Gray Lady ripped the place, saying as politely as possible that most of the food didn’t deserve to call itself New Orleans.

(At the time, dinner for four cost $81 — or $254 in today’s dollars.)

Google gives no indication that there’s a restaurant, or even a carriage house, there today. It appears that some sort of multi-tenant retail complex occupies the spot. Even the hottest or swankiest nightspot goes the way of the world, I suppose.

Meanwhile, I wonder what my grandparents had for dinner the week after their splurgey night out. I’m guessing there were some hot dogs or burgers, perhaps, with a bag of frozen veggies or a can of baked beans on the side.

If you want to dance, you have to pay the piper.

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