Going Home

Thanksgiving marks the first of the holiday homecomings, and though I had a shorter distance to travel than many folks I know, the trip back to the Matson Hill homestead stirred lots of feelings. On Wednesday, with the air dry and crisp, the stars glowing much stronger than they do down here in beautiful West Haven, I headed out from my mother’s to visit a friend nearby. It was on the walk back home that I was hit with nostalgia and the connection to the area that has never left, no matter where I’ve lived or how old I’ve gotten (and yes, I have gotten old, alas, and perhaps even more so these last few months of the New Crisis).

I turned the corner of Matson Hill Road, where Belltown Road begins its ascent up to the hill that overlooks the orchards and the skyline of Hartford. What a hill it is; from the top, you can survey several towns. As a kid, as I’ve written before, people would gather there to watch the fireworks from all across the region. And in high school, that spot was a rendezvous point for Glastonbury teens looking to drink a beer or cop a feel or toke a joint, all under the stars and in the glow of the Hartford lights.

On this Thanksgiving eve, I thought about all the time I’ve spent at that intersection: it was our bus stop for many years, and I spent countless hours playing in the yards of the kids who lived along that part of the street. Then I advanced toward the welcoming light of my mother’s house; the place my family has called home for more than 60 years, with my grandmother’s house – it will always be my grandmother’s house, no matter how many more families move in and out and change the innards or alter the landscape or do their best to leave their mark; always my grandmother’s, the house next door, where my mother was born, where I spent so many hours eating too much food and listening to the Italian relatives banter, easily switching back and forth between English and their native dialect.

So, I saw the two houses and I thought: how fortunate I am to be 50 and still be able to come home to the place where I was raised. How many people my age have families that moved often over the years, or have lost both their parents, and thus that first home, or or even if a parent – or both – is still alive, the house has passed on to others, to strangers. And how many people had the luxury of growing up next to their grandparents, surrounded by the orchard they once farmed, a sort of bucolic existence that belies the rest of the suburban milieu that is Glastonbury.

Yes, yes, romanticism is at work here, I know. This suggestion of some sort of rural heaven should not obscure the dysfunction that is my family (or any other). Or the many flaws that mark this town, its agrarian roots always increasingly giving way to an upscale aura that leaves me wondering if I could ever fit in here again (if I ever did). And within a few years or so, I know, the ties to this corner of Matson Hill will be gone. My mother will move on from the house, for one reason or another. And no one in the family, I reckon, will want that last little piece of our family’s ties to this part of town. My Thanksgivings will be spent at other relatives‘, or at a new home somewhere outside of Connecticut, or – if I’m lucky – with my new partner, whoever and wherever she may be.

But until then, I will revel in my time on Matson Hill. The drive up to my parents’, the orchards, the hills – they have always felt special. I might have itched to escape the family home after high school, but coming back, especially now, has always felt right. The warmth and comfort there, amidst those apple and peach trees, has only gotten stronger. I lament, already, the day when I won’t have the tie to that place I’ve called home for so long.

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~ by mburgan on November 30, 2010.

2 Responses to “Going Home”

  1. Hi Michael,
    I cried reading this post. I grew up on Grindle Brook Road, off of Fairview Terrace. I was there for my Mom’s funeral on 11/13. Went to her house to pick up some stuff, some wonderful stuff, from my childhood. She lived there for over 40 years and now my stepfather can’t wait to sell it. To dispose of it. I am heartbroken and crestfallen and felt, as I left on the 13th, that South Glastonbury will never be “home” again.
    I loved Matson Hill and that corner of Foote Road. So many memories of Bell Town. I watched so many fireworks from there – 4th of July and otherwise (wink wink). Riding snowmobiles in the pitch black through the orchards at breakneck speed.
    I skipped my first day of school in those orchards – with Leslie Canapari. We got lost and chased by a bull and got caught by my Mom.
    I love South Glastonbury.
    I miss my Mom.

  2. Colleen,

    I hate to make anyone cry, but thanks as always for reading and for the heartfelt response. Again, I am so sorry for you loss. I guess anyone’s childhood home/neighborhood will always stir strong memories, but I do think there’s something special about that little corner of the world. And I love the story about you, Leslie, and the bull! I dread the day I can never feel Matson Hill is home. I have fantasized about buying my grandmother’s place, the next time it comes on the market, but know I could never afford it. When my mom leaves her house, whenever it will be, it will end almost 100 years of family ties to that area. I know that’s not a lot in the grand scheme of Glastonbury, with some families having colonial roots, but it means something to this Italian American with close off-the-boat family ties. I know my age and current situation fuel much of my nostalgia, as well as my interest in history. But the memories are strong, the emotions they evoke so real–as I know you know. Thanks again.

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