Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Time traveling, part 4

We lived in Portsmouth, NH, for nine months. Then we had to say farewell to the Yoken's Restaurant sign, the naval base, the Air Force base, the ocean, the spectacular autumn, the 10-foot snowdrifts, to Kid Heaven.

Dad had gotten a new job. He resumed teaching, unwilling to take a post, say in Guam, without being able to take his family with him.

So instead of Guam, we went to Connecticut. East Hartford, to be exact. It might as well have been Guam: New school, new friends, new neighbors, and all the uncertainty that comes with leaving an established 9-month comfort zone.

But it didn't take long for me to adapt. At least, I don't think it did. This was around 1960, I was nearly 10 years old, and my parents bought a house that was unlike anything I'd lived in before. It was a ranch house in a new development in the suburbs. I had my own room. The house was, well, modern. This was a different kind of heaven. Modern Heaven. We even had a fireplace.

At Christmas, we had one of those aluminum Christmas trees that was lit up by a color wheel. It was awesome. We were soooo incredibly modern.

But East Hartford came with a caveat or two. A few miles down the road, Pratt and Whitney built jet engines for military aircraft. Every so often, at any hour of the day, they'd test one of the engines that would end up in an F-104, and the whole neighborhood would rattle. Jet engines. I guess that put us in the fast lane.

I really don't remember that much about our place in Connecticut. We were near farmland that also had a substantial wooded area. So we had woods to explore, and in the winter, we had a pond practically in our back yard that was ideal for ice skating. My first pair of ice skates turned out to be hockey skates.

Did you know that they grow tobacco in Connecticut? (here).  I don't think many people know this, but the Hartford area is dotted with tobacco barns, or at least it was back then. It was New England quaint — I do remember that.

I guess the big deal about Connecticut was that I was old enough to start finding out who I was. I think by the time I was in the fifth grade I was becoming vaguely aware of girls. I do recall I was once chosen by the teacher to draw a Christmas mural (I had a modicum of artistic talent — apparently I'm a right-side brainer who is left-handed, which I'm told is some kind of perfect storm for an ability to make stuff up) on the bulletin board that stretched across the back wall of the room. I could appoint two others in the class to help me — so I picked the kid who I felt had the artistic talent to complement my own, and then I picked a girl for whom I had an incurable crush and who couldn't draw water through a straw. It showed on the mural. Two-thirds of the completed project were excellent, while one-third of it looked like a Friz Freleng cartoon. Ever since, my life in the company of women I find myself attracted to has always revolved around the way my heart beats in their presence. I suspect that reality actually may go a long way to explain why my heart is in a-fib now. Yes, I'm certain it all started in the fifth grade.

But even this didn't last. We stayed in Connecticut for two years. Then dad felt — or heard — the calling to enter the ministry.

So it was back to Bethlehem, Pa., and another series of adventures.

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