Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Wrinkle in Time

Well, despite some people's doubts that I might not use half the crap I brought with me on my giant road trip...some people were wrong!

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 more accurate shot of Main St., Hamden, Conn. Go Hamden, keeping it real!

5 Carbonella Drive THEN.

5 Carbonella Drive NOW.

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.

The stream has a name.

We lived next door to the Nature Center. It was a big treat to go there.

At the Nature Center, walk down this hill to get to the stream.

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.

A very magical stone. I'm still waiting...

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.


21stCenturyMom said...

Who was it who said "you can never go home?" So wrong.

I grew up in Madison and we used to ride the bus into New Haven on Saturdays and hang out at the mall. Good times!

21stCenturyMom said...

It was Thomas Wolff - but you knew that. And he said "You can't go home" but you did - so there!

Jack said...

I still see an occasional Carmen Ghia here in Germany, but they are rare.

I think I need a trip like yours, it's been a long time.

cami said...


your childhood playground does look like a magical place, straight out of a fairy tale book.

It's so good that you were able to revisit your past and conquer your fears. It sounds very therapeutic indeed.

LBTEPA said...

What a wonderful wonderful weekend :)

: said...

Hi, 12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics is going to start from August 15th 2009 to 23rd August 2009.

Host City : Berlin, Germany
Events : 47
Opening Ceremony : 15th August 2009
Closing Ceremony : 23rd August 2009
Main Stadium : Olympiastadion
Total Athletes : 1,800
No.Of. Days : 9 Days Championships
Disciplines : 24
Min competitions per Day : 3 Competitions
Max Competitions per Day : 7 Competitions

IHateToast said...

I'm glad you faced those old demons and saw that some--most--have changed. Nice kiss from your brother. You looked great getting that smooch and on that porch.

Paula said...

beautiful post! thank you

Kelly said...

A very nice stroll through time. I like that old photo... it looks like they've kept the railings all that time.

ShirleyPerly said...

What a nice trip down memory lane!

And I love how a lot of what you had before is actually still there. Many of the things where I grew up are shuttered, gone or have changed for the worse but I still see things as they were, funny enough.

Maryland Girl aka Michelle said...

Great Post Jeanne. I read it last night, but them my computer was acting up and i couldn't leave a comment. I'm glad you did something that scared you! Missed you on the ride last night.
There was only three of us and the other two were new.

Juls said...

Wonderful. FYI: I didn't just do a picture walk. I read the words too.

eileen said...

Wow, give me a minute will ya? I just learned from my cousin that her family knew my mother was beating the hell out of me when I was little. I guess they thought there was "something wrong" in my family, too. BUT, we're ALL GOOD now, right?! And so are our children. xx

eileen said...

Now that I've caught my breath, I have to say this was a wonderful post. Thank you. I'm reading a memoir by the guy who wrote Marley and Me....it doesn't hold a candle....
ps. Now I know where NOD got her sweet cheeks.

Jade Lady said...

Wow...that must have been strange to go back in time. The place you grew up was beautiful! Lots of memories - - think one day I'll do that, but maybe I need another 20 more years!

Anne said...

Childhood memories can be magical if you just cut out the real unpleasant parts. We all need to make a trip like you did, though most of my crazy relatives are still behind bars.

Can't wait for the next installation since it's a place I'm familiar with. Did you get to run? Ride? Relax???

Danielle in Iowa said...

Sorry I ever doubted you :-)

But you should have worn the wetsuit and played in the stream.

peter said...

Aww, Jeanne, that's a sweet post, as in bittersweet. Just what I love! I was born in New Haven, maybe we were neighbors! (I lived there all of 6 weeks.) Glad you reconnected as much as you did. Your brother looks like many a rough New Englander that I know, smoking away.

Runner Susan said...

I've got a plan: I'll be your therapist and you can be my therapist and we'll be mentally stable together! And if that doesn't work we'll check into the looney farm together

David said...

I did one of those demon eradication things in Connecticut a few years ago. It does wonders. Now that you can acknowledge your history there won't be so many pregnant blank pauses when your next date asks you "Where did you grew up?" and, "How was it?" You;ll have a whole new angle on the story.

Rachel said...

Jeanne - What a well-written and touching account of your journey through time and space. I think that maybe you can still be a journalist :). I would seriously encourage you to think about submitting this story for publication. It's very good. Also, you look fab dahling. You will be ready for Eagleman no problem! I admire your dedication and spirit when it comes to live in general, including triathlons.