Karen’s the one who found two joints in the tea kettle’s spout. Faded blue, small, but a bit too tiny for my stovetop. The kettle I mean. She pulled it from the top shelf at Scanton Shops, the antique shop we found ourselves in yesterday as we wound our way through the back country roads of northeastern CT. Karen is my friend of thirty years, next week. Halloween to be exact.
As I drove to meet her at her home in Griswold, CT, I was overwhelmed with the visceral beauty of the place I’d once called home. It dazzled with vivid autumn colors, the likes of which made me wonder if I’d ever really noticed it during the eight years I’d spent living there, at the edge of the forest. Through Voluntown, past the Baptist Church set aglow by a huge, lone shimmering maple tree. On to “the forest road”, Route 201, I drove. Trying to steady my eyes on the winding forest and farm flanked Hopeville Rd. is where it began to feel like time, the past 30 years, stood still. The stark, raving, naked hands of the clock had ceased to turn. Right there, at the corner of Roode Rd., I swear, nothing but perhaps the height of the ever steadfast evergreens has changed. A right hand turn into Arrowhead Estates caused me to blink, rub my eyes, take my sunglasses off and wish someone would pinch me. “It can’t be.” I thought, gasping at the sheer sight of yesterday.
My old house, our first family home, stood tiny, brown and humble next to the little brook that edges the yard. Cozy, a perfect spot for us and our infant boy, Jeffrey. There it was, our first nest, just the way it looked when I first lay eyes on it in February, 1987. Past it I drove, to Karen’s house, now facing me at the end of the street on Stonehill Rd., where she awaited my arrival just like in 1989.
She met me on her front porch, like always. The only things missing were our three little fair haired boys.
Oh they’ve changed. Yes indeed, since Halloween, 1988 when Karen appeared in the cold, dark night, trudging through half a foot of unraked, crinkled up leaves on my front lawn. Holding her hand, reaching up in his costumed snowsuit, was Joel. Even in the blackness I could see his huge, brown, heavenly lashed eyes looking at Jeffrey and I while we chatted away, shivering. But Halloween must go on! Conversation swiftly flowed into both of us learning that we were the only two “stay at home Mom’s” in the neighborhood. And that our boys, each our first, were only a few weeks apart in age. Just as important, that we both were desperate for a friend to share this exhilarating experience of motherhood. It was instant friendship. The following June Karen gave birth to Jared, making the boys even more special to share.
And it’s about damn time, Karen DelMonte, that I share this little story of our friendships beginnings. And that I thank you for being there then. I thank you for being there now.
Of course, they’ve grown up and left us despite us. But we have a bond, a unique, maternal kind of bond that mothers need.
We have shared memories of great times, the best of times. Those few years that I spent raising my son, with Karen as my trusted neighbor, my closest friend, raising her two boys, Joel and Jared were by far, the best damn years of my life.
We, she put the tea kettle back on the upper shelf along with its hidden treasure. We shared a few snickers, made our meager purchases and left without saying a word.
A couple of years later: Jared, Yours Truly, Jeff, Joel, John