I Drove By

I grew up in the small town of Seymour. For 15 of my 56 years I called it home. I think it’s amazing how even though I’ve lived in Hamden for close to 30 years now, I’ll always consider Seymour my hometown. I think it’s because my formative years as they’re called were spent there. I attended public school from kindergarten through high school graduation and lived in the same neighborhood all that time. Some of the friends I made in those 3 schools are still my friends today. Though we don’t see each other often, we seem to pick up where we left off and with social media have reconnected on a wonderful new level. Going back home can be difficult though. What I saw and felt as a child is so much different than what I see and feel as an adult. As I drove through town recently there were moments filled with happy memories and others that were sad.

I drove by Paper Mill Pond which has filled in over the years to a stream that’s merely a trickle. We’d walk the 1/2 mile or so with skates slung over our shoulders, hockey sticks in hand, multiple layers of clothes to keep warm and we’d skate for hours. We’d argue about who’d be the next Bobby Orr or Peggy Fleming. Once a hockey puck belonging to my mother from a Boston Bruins game went too close to the dam and fell in through the thin ice. Seeing it on a shelf just below the waters edge I knew I could reach it and I fell in up to my waist. My brother scooped me out and it was a very, long, cold walk home. My mother reassured me that I was more valuable than the lost puck and with dry clothes and hot chocolate with marshmallow Fluff I had quite a story to tell.

I drove by Chatfield Park where we would sit on the rocks and fish for brown trout in the spring and sled down the hill in the winter. I remember a friend breaking his arm on the swings when he tried to go too high. I drove by Steven Beedle’s house and remember him trying steal a kiss from me in elementary school skating on the little pond behind it. Steve died many years ago, reportedly a drug related death. Oh, the damae addiction has done to so many I care about.

I drove by Cheryl Kane’s (green) house and the Conroy’s and Gene Proch’s too. What a fun street to ride bikes on as we headed to play at the park. On the next street was Vicki Corcoran’s and up the hill lived Rhonda Kuziak. I was secretly in love with her brother Tad. A friend just made me pierogis and it brought back warm memories of Mrs. Kuziak serving them straight from the pan dripping with warm butter. Up on the hill were Kim Killian, Patty Allen (she had handsome football playing brothers) and Carlene Blatchley whose sleepovers were the rowdiest.

I drove by our first house on 50 Chestnut Street and then to our other across on 3 Chestnut Court. For the first time since 1965 none of our family live on the street. #3 sits empty looking small and wan, devoid of life. Actually the majority of the homes in the neighborhood look worn and tired with the exception of the Locke and Vasas’ houses occupied by sons Jeff & George and kept just fine. The dads whom I knew growing up would shudder to see how poorly their homes are being taken care of now. They prided themselves on owning their own homes, keeping their yards green and repairing whatever needed fixing. These men and women who raised families in this raised ranch development were hard workers. They were roofers and construction workers, state policemen, engineers, secretaries, mechanics, nurse’s assistants and tool and die makers. They would never dream of parking cars on their front lawn or leaving a broken fence in disrepair. Maybe the economy is affecting the homeowners so the aluminum siding can’t be replaced right now but mold can be removed with simple power washing and cars can be parked in a driveway or on the street.

I drove by French Memorial Park where the pine trees look even bigger. The Seymour Newcomer’s Club started the Pumpkin Festival held still today each year at the park and my mom and Mrs. Locke were on that first committee. I couldn’t wait to walk around with my friends and see what crafts were being sold that I could learn to make too. The Boy Scouts Pine Car Derby was held on French Street and the annual Memorial Day Parade always ended there with a wreath ceremony honoring Veterans’ as well. Baseball games, basketball, Pop Warner Football, hours spent there playing outside created so many wonderful memories for me. It’s also where a boy tried to “French Kiss” me, yuk! But that’s another story for another time.

I drove through downtown, past the old Strand Theater, Rogol’s, Jimmie’s (still there), Isaccson’s, Seymour Trust and Post Office. I went to the Seymour Antique’s shop and measured a cupboard I may have a home for. Ted’s Spa is still there by another name and high school friend Steve Kulas practices law across from where Foley Drug was, my first real job at 16.

No visit home is complete without a pizza from Zoi’s so there I headed. What a surprise to walk in and find Zoi, the original owner standing right there. Photo Op! After chatting and catching up on life, I had no trouble putting away a small bacon pizza and root beer before I headed up the hill to visit my recently married daughter in her first apartment off Maple Street. As I drove by the old Maple St. School, now apartments, past Muzzy’s and the barber shop and to her place, more memories and more stories to tell flooded in.

Some say you can’t go home again and maybe they’re partially right. I choose to say that you can go home as long as you don’t expect everything to be the same as you remember it. Take the time to appreciate the new things, put the sad stuff in the past and preserve the warm memories and hold on to them for the joy they brought you then and now.

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