Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Springtime in “The Land of Steady Habits”

Originally, Sal was going to be in the Philippines right about now, for about a month. So I planned this sojourn up the coast as a suitable diversion in her absence. Then the needs of one of her clients took precedent -- she is a "certified personal care assistant,"
a caregiver -- and her departure was delayed until mid-April. But last Thursday morning, with plans already made, I left anyway. Alone.

I hadn't been through Connecticut since August of '03, when I passed through on the way to Rhode Island for a weekend festival. So up I-95 I went, arriving at my hotel a few miles north of Norwich by about seven in the evening. It was Saint Paddy's Day, and I arrived in a little village a few miles from the hotel, where I was invited to the traditional corned-beef-and-cabbage dinner.

Last August, we reported on the publishing of a book titled 11 On My Own, the saga of a devout Catholic mother of eleven whose husband left her for another woman. I had the privilege of breaking bread once again with the author, Kristin Bothur, only this time at her home, and with nine of her children who still live there, ages five to eighteen. Inasmuch as I am a sucker for women and children who laugh at all of my jokes, they were a real party waiting to happen.

The next evening (Friday), we all went to Stations of the Cross. Then they let me buy pizza for all of them (vegetarian, of course), followed by them returning the favor, by taking me bowling with them. I used to go bowling as a kid, and it was a common activity with the parish CYO group. The last time I tried it was for my eighteenth birthday. The highest score I ever got in those days was 125. But that was then, and this is now, and I was even worse that night. But I managed to score one strike and two spares over the course of two games, thus avoiding total humiliation.

The events of that evening took place in Willimantic, which was once a city, but is now known as a "census designated place" within the Town of Windham, which is in the County of Windham. Connecticut has a strange way of running themselves. They have villages within towns, the latter being more like townships where I come from, but which are the basic form of local government, except for the cities. And the eight counties don't really have functioning governments, their boundaries only existing on paper, outside of provision for county sheriffs for juridical purposes, which makes you wonder why they bother with them. And outside of cities, nearly all local police is done by the State Police.

But back to Willimantic. It is also known as "Thread City" because it had an enormous thread factory there, which is now a huge condominium -- quite an ingenious solution, actually. In addition, one of their bridges has frogs sitting on top of giant thread spools, in honor of the legendary Windham Frog Fight of 1754, a rather curious phenomenon which can be explained by clicking here. And even then ...

Earlier that day, I went north for antiquing. Putnam is a town (which actually is a town) in the northeast corner of the state, and is known for its many antique stores and consignment shops. The largest antique store there is three stories high, not counting the basement. I could have spent the entire afternoon there, and I admit I was sorely tempted beyond my spending limit, but I held fast. The best part about that place was the old guys who hung out there. I think some of them actually work there, while others just come in to hang around the old cracker barrel. I should have stayed longer, and I could have made up my own Lake Woebegon story. I already had the perfect cast of small town characters.

The next day (Saturday), I went to visit one of two Indian Reservations in the state. I hadn't realized there were any reservations in Connecticut, but both the Mohegan and the Mashantucket-Pequot each have sovereign jurisdiction over theirs, and both operate luxurious casinos, which is common among Indian tribes, and not just the Seminoles in Florida, as the Feds don't get a piece of the action. I visited the Mashantucket-Pequot Museum, where I went on a tour of a recreated Pequot village. I really have to go back again so I can see the movies, which are supposed to be excellent. And besides, I only had two hours there before they closed, because the museum is nearly impossible to find amidst all the casino stuff.

The hotel where I stayed was really the best. It wasn't exactly near a lot of stuff, but it was strategically located for my itinerary. And the pool and hot tub were open until midnight, and opened at six in the morning, which is great for someone spending most of the day away from the hotel. And after a few weeks of palace intrigue at my job, luxuriating in a hot tub was a welcome respite.

Overall, I had the best time, and I expect I will bring Sal with me when I return in the fall. Leaving Connecticut was very difficult, even though I wasn't there for more than a few days. I found myself quite taken with the Bothur children. They renewed my appreciation of board games, which I haven't played in a long time. And they all wanted to take turns riding in my car. One incident of note, was when I spent much of Friday evening at the bowling alley conversing with eleven-year-old Cassidy. They were all adorable, of course. And closer to home, I was always grateful that God had given me a son. And maybe Cassidy was just at the age to be especially precocious, and it would undoubtedly pass. But for a brief interlude, I found myself wishing that I had been blessed with a daughter as well.

That does not happen very often. No, actually ... never.

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