Thursday, April 29, 2010
#80-E – NOSTALGIA
When I was a kid there was no police force in Weston, and many people drove much loved old cars, like the new old car I was driving now. It felt more like wild country than the carefully tended commuter town it was becoming. There was still a farm in the town, cows milked by hand, belonging to David Coley, who was the uncle of my friend Fred Coley. And we almost had a farm ourselves – my father and mother raising chickens and goats and at one point pigs and ducks too as a way to get around wartime food rationing.
Fred Coley and I and Jason Bacon and sometimes other school friends roamed the woods, even trapped in the woods, while Peter Cooper, who was older, was tooling around down in Westport in cars with broken mufflers. We had encounters with deadly copperheads, and once with a rattlesnake. We fished and swam in a river that was deep and still behind an old waterfall dam that had powered the heavy stone wheels for sharpening axes in a by now long abandoned ax factory. Abandoned sharpening wheels still lay all around in the damp ground near the foot of the waterfall.
Above the dam we swam every day. I once came upon Jason’s barely pubescent sister Patsy skinny dipping there. Many of our fathers commuted into the city every day, but many others were out here in the country, working as builders and road repairers and carpenters and plumbers, and some were poor Scandinavian immigrants who worked in a functioning factory ten miles away that made fences.
Patsy was almost in our circle since, though younger, she was as developed as the girls in our class. On the periphery was Jason’s artist brother Bruce, who had been too young to join us back in the early days, but whom we saw often later in the city when he was a popular functioning artist with a succession of appealing girlfriends. To our envy, he had entered high school just at the point where actual sex with a girlfriend had ceased being an anomaly.
After parking the car I cross the road and walk into my childhood area. The hill with the now long unused water tank is still there in the field up behind the house I grew up in and the smaller one next door that my parents moved to later. A windmill that when I was a child could still be used to pump water up to the tank had been torn down, and anyway an electric motor had taken over its function even before my parents bought the big house. We used to talk with pride of how water came to our house by what we called Gravity Flow, a term that seemed to my brother and me to connect us to pioneer days.
Adjoining the field still was woodland that before my time had been fields for crops and grazing, which was clear from the old crumbling overgrown stone walls that were still there. I walked up to what I thought of as my special place, up behind the houses and below where the windmill had been. It was between two converging crumbling stone walls, right at a small, slow stream that had frogs and salamanders and Jack-in-the-pulpit plants and ragweed and dragon flies and sometimes snakes. What I noticed most this time, but has apparently kept myself from noticing before, was that even now, with summer foliage, you could clearly see from all directions anyone who might be in this spot that I had convinced myself was secret and private.
Mario noticed as we drove around the town that there were no direction signs – as if it were a clever way to confuse an invading enemy. I told him how my parents and their friends so feared that swarthy working class boys would come over from Bridgeport to use our swimming places. I drove now to Sherwood Island, a state park with beaches on the Long Island Sound used by local people, including the high school girls I used to admire from a distance, and also by people who, like Mario and I, drove up from the city. I tried to recapture what it had been like to look at and long for girls in bathing suits before I had had any experience of actual sex with girls.
I was roaming in my past. And I was thinking of Vermont, where Mario would be joining me. And I remembered that sometime after I had gone away and Weston was becoming more costly and rarefied, most of the old New Englanders, including a great many Coleys, had migrated en masse to some unspoiled place in Vermont. I did not think to try to find out where. I did not connect that phenomena with what I might be doing.
But past and present were mixing together fast in other ways. As in my next move, which was to drive out to Long Island for Bruce Bacon’s funeral.