After many TSA check points, gate changes and traffic jams, we are back home in Georgia. But thats the end of the story. It’s funny, when you return to your normal life its easy to forget where you were just a mere 24 hours prior, geographically and mentally.
For those who don’t know, Lindsey and I spent 3 solid days in Connecticut recently. It was a fantastic time as usual. I’m still feeling a huge deal of thankfulness just being able to travel and see family.
Believe it or not, my intentions were to vlog this trip. I wanted to really capture all we experienced through video. Plus, vlogging continually fascinates my filmmaker senses. At the end the day though, I was worried the pressure of carrying a camera around and ensuring the best shots possible would get to me. I ultimately decided not to vlog but instead go to trustworthy medium. Writing. Maybe one day i’ll vlog a trip, it just didn’t feel right for the one.
· NO KIDS & GOING NORTH ·
Leaving our kids behind was a tough thing to do. We have a great babysitter and all, but anytime you travel 1000 miles away from your kids, it’s not easy. This was Lindsey’s first time being that far away for multiple days. I thought the distance would be good, though. We needed a break and they were in good hands. Doesn’t mean it wasn’t tough, but once the dust settled in and we were on our way to the airport everything was fine.
We flew up to JFK on Saturday, June 24th. We had to drop the kids off early and hustle to the airport, but we made it. Even squeezed in a Panera stop. Our flight was on time and super smooth. Two thumbs up JetBlue. I watched the great Werner Herzog‘s latest documentary: “Into the Inferno.” Spectacular as usual. On a side note, that guy is turning into my favorite filmmaker. His filmography spans decades and everything I’ve seen from him is thought-provoking, intelligent and honest. But thats another blog entry.
· NEW YORK CITY ·
New York City was anything but smooth. We landed at old faithful JFK and I immediately remembered that I completely forgot the busyness of NYC. The plan was my brother picking us up from baggage claim, dropping us off in Times Square and then Lindsey and I taking the train from Grand Central to CT. Well, that didn’t pan out. Due to enormous traffic constraints, my brother was unable to make picking us up and while he felt awful, I told him no sweat. He had somewhere to be by a certain time and we didn’t want to hold him up. It was sweet of him to try, but traffic was a monster. Lindsey and I ended up taking an Uber into the city. Our driver Chen didn’t speak a word of english. But he knew how to drive to Times Square. All is well.
While in Times Square, many ‘interesting’ things occurred. Too many to list. I’ll highlight the high points. Walking unknowingly through a gay pride parade happened. Needless to say, Lindsey and I were taken a bit off guard. We then were en route to find some food. Well, once again I seemed to forget NYC and Saturday’s tourist demand for food. Everywhere we went there was at least an 2 hour wait. We were starving and would have taken McDonalds. We didn’t though. We were able to score a table at Guy Fieri’s joint and I gobbled a $18 cheeseburger. Not the best cheeseburger in the world, but at that point I really didn’t care. Lindsey ate this exotic looking chicken dish. We both shared desert.
A quick trip to the Disney store for the kids and we were off to Grand Central where we caught the 8:30 train and headed to the homeland. Well, my homeland. Connecticut!
· CONNECTICUT, CRISP AIR & MORNING TALKS ·
The minute we stepped off the train in Fairfield, CT I felt at home. The cool breeze whistling through the summer night’s air, the hybrid of city and town, hillside views and those shiny blue license plates. Everything just felt right again. After a quick car ride home from my Mom and Mike and some political/baseball/cultural conversation, Lindsey and I got some well needed rest.
The next morning I woke up early to find my mom sitting on the back deck enjoying the crisp morning air. It was a great opportunity to talk about her recent major life-changing decision. My mom recently retired from her one and only job of 50 years. Although she didn’t leave quite as she would have liked, anyone with knowledge of the specifics would agree it was the right move for her wellbeing.
She seemed in high spirits. She mentioned to me how not working has completely changed her mental health and she even has added some new hobbies. Bike riding, long walks and planting her own garden were actions she just never had the time to do while working full time. I came out of the talk happy for her. She seems to have found peace and contentment in life after work.
· CHURCH AND ITALIAN FOOD ·
I was particularly excited for Sunday. The whole reason we came to CT was for my Poppa’s 90th birthday bash which was Sunday PM. But Sunday morning was exciting also. We went to our old church and saw some friendly faces. It’s amazing what places and faces can do. Just being in church and talking to all of our friends immediately brought me back to living there. We also were able to meet the new Pastor, who was super nice and genuine. Seemed like all is going well at FBBC.
After church Lindsey really wanted some good Italian food. So we ventured to Joey Garlic’s, a staple in Plainville, CT. As usual the food was amazing. Sticking to my diet though, I did OK. But that grip was soon to be loosened. We had the pleasure of being accompanied by my best friend Jeremy’s parents at lunch. Lindsey made the statement that she feels so close to Mrs. Lilly (Jeremy’s mom) because when she lived in CT, Mrs. Lilly really treated Lindsey like a daughter. Always checking up on her, always inviting her to places when she knew Lindsey didn’t know many people. Truth is, they are both great people and Lindsey and I were blessed to spend some quality time with them.
· POPPA’S PARTY ·
We got home from lunch and helped my Mom pack about 8 large dishes of Italian cookies into the back of Mike’s truck and off they went. As they pulled out it hit me how hard she worked over those cookies and planning with my Aunt Chris and Aunt Judy for this party. All three of them really wanted to make this party special. They overwhelmingly succeeded. Anyone who attended would say the same. Their efforts did not go unnoticed.
I’ve thought the whole way home and up until this moment how to put into words my emotions attending this party. The truth is; any words I attempt to type will never meet demand. The three hours at my Poppa’s party very well may prove to be some of the best memories I’ve had the privilege of making.
I left feeling so thankful that we were able to come and experience such a special event. To me, what made it so special was all my family in the same room at the same time just honoring and celebrating this man, who no one would deny is a genuinely great man. There’s something to be said for celebrating someones life. For myself, it really puts things in perspective. Sure, we have stressful days with our jobs, kids, situations, etc. But, thats not the end all be all. We are on this earth for a bigger purpose; to help and treat people well. To be a great role model for our kids, to teach them the right paths. My grandfather did all of those things to perfection.
As long as I live I will never forget that night and all of us saying kind things to our grandfather from the podium. Even if some people didn’t, there was an unspoken feeling that everyone had a collective opinion; he is a great man.
· BACK AT A FIRE DEPARTMENT ·
We really wanted to see my cousin Mike, so although late, we went over to his work at Waterbury Fire. The guys he works with are all pretty awesome and didn’t care how long or late we stayed. We had a good talk about many things (as usual) and said our goodbyes for now. A big part of me always wanted to work there. So whenever I get to visit is always special. And yea, hanging out with Mike isn’t so bad either.
· DAD AND PEPE’S PIZZA ·
My parents are divorced, so whenever we travel up to CT I always try and spend equal time with my mom and dad. I don’t in anyway look at this as a burden, but an opportunity to have quality time with both independently. So we spent our last day in CT with my Dad and Diane. We headed up to his house around 10am and just hung out a bit.
Dad wanted to take me to the hair salon (where I used to manage) to give him a haircut and help him with some paper work. Its always extremely hard for me to go back to the salon. I have so many memories and vivid thoughts about that place. After all, I spent close to my whole life being there. I miss it. I can’t help but think about the “what if’s” but I pushed forward and tried even harder to be in the moment and spend good time with my dad.
While we headed back to his house I had the window down the whole time. I couldn’t get over how no humidity was in the air. Just a cool breeze all day long. It was so refreshing.
Pepe’s pizza was on my list of “must do’s.” So the whole ride there I was questioning the merits of my diet and how many pizzas I was going to order. Sure enough, I ordered one, but of course devoured it. What I didn’t eat at the restaurant, I polished off for breakfast the next morning. We went to a new Pepe’s, though. This was a first for me. I have only been to the original in New Haven, but the Danbury location was almost just as good. Lindsey was asking me afterwords if I thought it was as good as the original. I didn’t mind the tiny difference, but I told her if I was bringing someone for the first time, I would definitely go to New Haven.
After Pepe’s we headed to a very interesting grocery store called “Stew Leonards“; a Connecticut exclusivity. Not many people know about Stew Leonards, buts it’s basically a circus for super markets. Talking animals all over the place and food samples galore. I could tell Lindsey really enjoyed it though. She got a sample of coffee, cinnamon buns and I think a few other things. Anyways, she was a fan. We headed back to my Dads to just chill out and rest the remainder of the day.
My Dad and I had some good talks about his current situations in CT, continually looking for real estate in Florida and just every day stuff. When your used to spending every minute together at work 6 days a week and now don’t, you’d be surprised how much you miss the presence of that person. At least, thats how I feel with my Dad. Very thankful we got to spend good time together.
· GOING SOUTH ·
Our final day was a quick one. We had to leave for JFK at around 10am because traffic into the city is always an unknown. But before we left my brother Mike and Urszela came to say goodbye and pick up their car they so nicely allowed us to use. My brother is currently planning on building a house in front of my father’s so it was interesting to me to see his blueprints and my dads recommendations on modification. I doubt any of the suggestions will be used, but that didn’t stop my dad from shooting some out there.
We left for the airport and got there in plenty of time. There was a spirited “discussion” between Lindsey and my Dad involving Amazon, salon products and future proofing salon business. While both perspectives were on different ends of the spectrum, they both brought very interesting points to the table. Another side note, the older I get the more I like participating in conversations as a spectator of sorts. I learn a whole lot more that way.
Buying the JetBlue “even more space/speed” upgrades was a huge help side-stepping the normal security lines. Then things got rocky. Our flight got delayed 3 times pushing it back about 3 hours. It all worked out though, Lindsey had work to do on her laptop and I was knee deep in some food and a few movies.
When we finally did take off, our ride was a little bumpy and we fought some rain towards the end of our flight. This flight home, I watched “The Stanford Prison Experiment.” It won’t set anyone’s world on fire, but it was an interesting look into authority and the abuse it could take unknowingly. Anyhows, after we landed in the pouring rain of Jacksonville, Lindsey and I were anxious to see the little dudes. We sped home and got some very big, much needed hugs.
· REFLECTION ·
All in all, we had a great time. I’m not just saying that because its what your supposed to say when you travel back home, I’m saying it because its really how I feel. I was so thankful to be back home and see all of my great family. Some I see on the internet everyday, some I haven’t seen since we moved 3 years ago.
I often marvel at the technology we have at our fingertips and am thankful for FaceTime and phone calls, but nothing could replace being at my Poppa’s party hearing him give a heartfelt, genuine thank you to all who attended.
I especially am happy Lindsey and I got to go just the 2 of us. A big part of me would have loved for our kids to come, but we really needed some time to just relax and talk like humans again.
I already miss Connecticut, my family, fantastic food and the cool breeze. But if I learned anything from going back home time and time again, Connecticut lives on without me. Thats a hurtful truth and sometimes hard to come to grips with. But I like thinking about Connecticut that way. Moving on, moving forward. My family still doing family party’s just like I was there. The traditions of my family and their get-togethers mean more to me now than ever. I need to know they are continuing, thats more important than me being there. I’m just a small piece to a larger puzzle. But the older I get, the more thankful I am to be a part of such a special family. Thank you to everyone and anyone who made our trip so special. We love you and miss you very much.