A Trip to the Far East – The Winter of 1990 – 1991 Part V

Christmas Day, Tuesday, Dec. 25th:

What a super Christmas Day: Kids, cats, and dogs, presents and tree, the whole shmear. Rippin’ open presents with no regard for savin’ wrappin’ paper; Cookin’ Ol’ Tom the turkey for 7 hours: Calling long distance relatives: “How’s the weather? Heard it snowed in Dallas.” Tinsel wreaths around the cat’s neck. Snappin’ photos. Ben and Sarah, the Thompson’s 11 and 13 year olds, glued to the TV and video screen, suffering from cerebral overload. A full-of-life house. A 130 year-old house. The timbers above the kitchen are exposed, supporting the bedrooms above. The hardwood plank flooring is original, and feels surprisingly warm to the bare feet. The “period” wallpapered walls are adorned with black and white family photos, caps and hats, and just general home-spun quotations. Bill T. is barking for chips and dip – something to carry him over until feast time, scheduled for 6 o’clock. Another movable feast. Dodi, Sarah, and I engage a game of “Scrabble”. Sarah can’t get rid of her “Z”. What a day!

I want to take this space in time to fill in the journey from Scranton, PA to Marble-head, MA. I-84 eastward to New England reminds me of I-20 across Louisiana – bumpity, bump, bump – terrible road. Well, like they say up here in the northeast, there are two seasons: Winter and road repair. I cross New York state and I can almost feel the tension drifting up from the Big Apple.

I finally make the stateline of Connecticut, and I breath a sigh of relief. The road surface is smooth asphalt, just like in TN and VA. The “Constitution State” is starting to roll and pitch. Hills, lakes, and rivers all intertwined with small towns that originated as mill centers. I stop at the first H.I. outside of Hartford to call John Parker at Aetna. Miraculously, I locate him without going through the network of Ma Bell. I find their modest home in a swank, suburban subdivision south of the city center. We have a nice chicken salad dinner, with Sally talking her head off, and John rolling his John L. Lewis eyebrows. They miss the 20 years on Cragmont in Dallas, but they’re glad to be back in the area where they first met. John is “crewing”, reverting back to the days at “Havad”, that’s Yankee for Harvard. They are in their element. John is engaged in nepotism architecture – residences for in-laws along the “Sound”. Can’t look down on that. I want to do the same for Ted and Karen in Texas, someday.

I wake up the next AM in Ol’ Baleau, and look out the cargo door window. The scene is definitely New England: huge, two-storey, white, wood-clad houses with small square windows, surrounded by large elms and maples – stark, serene setting. It’s peaceful. After indulging myself in the comforts of the Parker residence the next morning, I head out to southern Rhode Island on one of those pleasurable jaunts that you wish would never end. Rolling along State Hwy. 138 through SE CT. into R.I. the road doesn’t change its number. Most times it does, especially in the west.

Anyhow, I’m looking for a grocery. A little burg appears, and there’s Bruno’s Market. No packaged lunchmeat, just a meat counter. I wait for the local ladies to order. I finally order two pounds of sliced bologna, some German brand. The lady at the check-out counter has a crisp, Yankee accent, “That’s the best bologna you’ll ever buy”. I believe her.