I’m in Danbury, Connecticut. I’m on vacation. In Fact, I’m sitting in Manny’s Café – a throw-back to another era – a time when the local hangout in a New England town was the corner diner. You know the type – long counter with ten or more padded stools, and the rest of the diner had tables and chairs. People sit at the counter, reading the paper, lingering over the bottomless coffee cup.
The reason I was in Manny’s Café is because Isaura’s cousin, Maria (where we’re staying for a couple of days) is mother-in-law to Mike, the owner of the diner. Manny was the previous owner. Mike’s married to Nancy and they have a nine year old daughter, Lexi, who helps her dad on Saturday mornings in the diner. She’s saving her money for college. Have you got all this? Anyway, Mike fixed me up with a short stack of pancakes and a Portuguese omelet with that wonderful Linguisa sausage, accompanied by fried potatoes and an English muffin with jam.
I was born in Connecticut and lived all over New England growing up. While many things have changed, everything has pretty much stayed the same. One significant change is the Interstate Highway system. Back in the 50s we had parkways and two-lane roads. Otherwise, New England towns remain the same.
As we began our vacation this week, Isaura and I attended the retirement dinner in Washington DC for our Navy Chief of Chaplains, Rear Admiral Lou Iasiello. That was on Thursday night. Then on Friday morning at the Washington Navy Yard (an historic base going back to Revolutionary War times) we attended the Change of Office for the Navy Chief of Chaplains. This was an outdoor event held on the grass parade deck. Though the weather report said there was a 70% chance of rain, the morning was quite nice and accommodated the event. Honor guards from the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard were resplendent in their crisp, clean uniforms with rifles used for the manual-of-arms in presenting honors as they marched by during the pass-in-review. Added to this was the salute by cannon to the guest, Admiral Mike Mullen, Chief of Naval Operations.
We’d been staying at my brother’s home in Virginia, enjoying very pleasant weather. John and I managed to squeeze in four rounds of golf (72 holes) in two days during the middle of the week. He and his wife Lynne packed their car Thursday morning, heading for their vacation cabin in Corea, Maine where we will join them in a few days. After I’d changed out of my white uniform and into jeans and a t-shirt following Friday’s ceremony, Isaura, my sister Joy, and her six year old granddaughter, Bethany, and I piled into my niece’s Toyota Rav 4 and headed north. It was a beautiful drive, taking us through parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and finally to Danbury, Connecticut.
Isaura, being full-blooded Portuguese, is related to most of the Portuguese who live in the Central Valley of California; the city of Toronto, Canada; and the New England states of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. This is why we are here in what is also known as the Nutmeg State and the Constitution State.
Being here is like taking a walk down memory lane. Manny’s Café started my mind going back to childhood days. Just out of curiosity, I stopped in a general store to see if they still had the same things I remembered as a kid fifty years ago. As I slowly meandered down the aisles, I saw the same brands of food that were there, lo, these many years ago. There was Tetley Tea, Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise, Charm’s Sour Candy Balls (loved those!), and Chock full ‘O Nuts Coffee. I even remembered the jingle: “Chock full ‘O Nuts is that Heavenly Coffee, Better Coffee millionaire’s money can’t buy.” But my favorite discovery was a jar of Marshmallow Fluff! This was my favorite treat as a kid. Mom used to make a sandwich of Nabisco Honey Maid Graham Crackers and Marshmallow Fluff as part of my lunch. Yum!
To close out my walk down memory lane, my sister Joy and I drove to New Jersey Sunday afternoon to attend the funeral of the father of a childhood friend, Steve. Ted and Helen Lurie were like second parents to me. We spent many wonderful days in and around their home. Seeing that home again completed my walk down memory lane. It was good to be here.
So now we’re off to Maine where, fishing, relaxing, lobster dinners and golf await! It’s tough, but somebody’s got to do it!