The only thing I didn't use was the wetsuit.
But that is part 2 of my tale. Part 1 starts in New Haven, Connecticut, my hometown.
There is nothing quite like rolling down the road in a brand new (rental) car (Hyundai Sonata, it rocks), a cuppa 'bucks in one hand, XM radio blasting.
This trip was intended to be therapeutic. I haven't been to New Haven (place of my birth and where I grew up and where I left the minute I turned 18) probably for 30 years. I had never visited my brother. It was time to go back and face the demons.
It literally felt like I was time traveling, since XM radio has stations devoted solely to the '80s, '70s, '60s, '50s, '40s. As the wheels rolled, I slowly rolled back the dial, and the clock, until I was young again...
I spent the first day driving around by myself, getting reacquainted, and amazingly, easily remembered exactly where everything was. First stop was the house I lived in until age 11, in Hamden, Conn., a woodsy still-largely undeveloped suburb of New Haven. Just how undeveloped, you ask?
Main St., Hamden, Ct., where my very first boyfriend (in kindergarten), Charlie Shanley, lived. (I believe he now plays for the other team. NOT MY FAULT.)
A stream ran through my front yard. I was forever falling in it and getting yelled at. There were nine houses on my street and no other neighbors.
This is what's left of the petting zoo. Can you believe the size of the foundations? So tiny! I think they held a few owls and some turtles.
There's more, oh so much more.
I visited my high school, my grammar school, my two middle schools, my church, my sister's high school, the Yale Law School, where I spent so much time sitting on the steps waiting for my mother to pick up or drop off manuscripts (she was a typist), the apartment we lived in for a year when my parents split up, the house we moved to when they got back together the next year...And maybe the best surprise of all, I visited my very good friend from 8th grade, Rosemary, who I just reconnected with on FaceBook and who filled in a lot of holes for me.
You see, I have seriously blocked out a lot of my childhood. Until recently, I hadn't realized exactly how much. In the middle of one night during that pivotal 8th grade year, my mother moved out of our house, leaving me and my crazy brother behind, with no goodbye. I remember my father coming to school to tell me he'd changed the locks, and giving me a new key...but did I really remember that? Oh yes, it really happened. Rosemary remembers it, too. She remembers thinking there was "something wrong" in my family, but you just didn't discuss those kind of things. I remember being deeply ashamed. Humor became my refuge.
There were a lot of sad memories, but some happy ones too. Pizza! Guitar lessons for $1 a pop from a nun! Choir practice! Rosemary reminded me how we both lusted after a Carman Ghia that we passed every day as we walked home from school. She reminded me that we both swore we'd be journalists when we grew up (eh, I came close. Sort of.), and that I actually WAS the editor of my high school newspaper.
Remember that advice to "do one thing everyday that scares you?" Well, my thing was visiting my brother.
Nothing to fear there anymore.
I grew up in a magical place. A place with wishing stones, and and hills with special names. I can see now exactly why I love being outdoors and being around nature. It's what I grew up with.
View from my house.
I miss it all dearly.