Thursday, August 21, 2008

I Found My Thrill on Bayberry Hill!

Well, now that the flood gates of memories have swung open they are leading down many favorite paths. Maybe this is a good way to take my mind off the nausea and fatigue of chemo and go back to other favorite places from the past. So here goes...
My Dad was the oldest of three boys, Frederick, Arthur and Eddie. My parents had the 4 girls (otherwise known as the Stunning Smith Sisters). Uncle Arthur and Aunt Ann had two sons, Brian and Stevie, and Uncle Eddie and Aunt Barbara had 2 girls and a boy, Maureen, Kathleen and Little Eddie (who by the way towers over his Dad, "Big Eddie"). While we moved around throughout the New England states, Uncle Arthur and family stayed in Ridgefield CT, and Uncle Eddie and all in West Hartford, CT., where they still live in the house I remember as a child.
For some reason, I always had a special affinity for Uncle Arthur and Aunt Ann's house, a blue ranch on the top of Bayberry Hill Rd. in Ridgefield, CT. I don't know why I spent so much time there with them visiting, probably because Brian and I were fairly close in age, about three years apart as I recall, and shared a total passion for the Beatles. Anyway in my mind's eye this is another house I can see so clearly. Aunt Ann and Uncle Arthur's bedroom was in the front, with the living room and dining room opposite the bedrooms. The kitchen was in the back of the house. Aunt Ann was a great cook, and I distinctly remember "helping" her make meatballs once for spaghetti and meatballs! They also had a great screened porch on the back! We liked to help Aunt Ann--don't ask me why but ironing at their house seemed ever so much more fun than it was at ours! Andi and I both remember Aunt Ann letting us iron designs of animals on squares of old sheet she'd cut up-then we'd color them and iron over our designs. Neither of us recall what we did with the squares, but we loved doing it and it probably kept us out of her hair for a while!
For fun we'd load up into Aunt Ann's blue VW beetle (who didn't have one!) and drive down to Great Pond for swimming. I remember there was a float you could swim out to--very cool. Brian reminded me that kids got colored wrist or ankle bands to show how proficient a swimmer you were. So much fun--after a day in the water and sun we'd all pile back in the VW all wet and sandy and head back to the top of Bayberry Hill. The fun continued right outside in the back yards. There was a slough of kids that lived up there, the Kiley's, the Inouye's --so there were always kids to play games with or just swing on Brian and Stevie's swing set. Life was good on Bayberry Hill--at least in our minds!
In my mind Uncle Arthur worked a lot, and so often wasn't there until evenings. But Uncle Arthur did at least one year a have a vegetable garden of which he was VERY proud. He planted, weeded and tended, waiting for his first crops! Finally there came the day of the great cookout at Aunt Ann and Uncle Arthur's, and all the family was invited to taste the fruits of his labors. I recall distinctly we had barbequed chicken (and for those who doubt we do have Grampa's old movies to back up this story). To say the chicken was crisp is an understatement--it looked like the charcoal brickettes themselves. All the kids were seated at the picnic table--being served by our parents--Grampa filmed it all--as each child had a piece of this "well done" chicken placed in front of them, you could see the eyes bugging out of each of our heads! Remember in those days you ate what was on your plate and this, the video documents, was going to be a feat! Thankfully, there was a small reprieve in the form of Aunt Dora--Grammy Smith's fun loving, wild, sister who was also there for the meal. Everyone loved Dora from the oldest to the youngest--you just couldn't help it! Well, it seems that Uncle Arthur had lovingly harvested and cooked the first of his peas-hand selected to share among all the guests. They were placed in a small bowl, and apparently you were each supposed to taste just a few-so the bowl could make it all the way around the table. Apparently Aunt Dora missed that message--when the bowl was passed to her she promptly dumped all the peas on her plate and enjoyed every last one! Another one of these funny adventures that makes up the crazy quilt of a family's memories! And there are still more to come....Love, Nancy

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