When Dad was alive, he and Mom would take long drives through northwest Connecticut, into Massachusetts and Vermont. One spring, I needed to drive to Massachusetts to pick up a friend who was hiking part of the Appalachian Trail. Mom invited herself along for the drive. Driving with my mother was a short ride, only two hours, but one that created a life-long memory.
We left at mid-morning and once we got past the traffic in Waterbury and started to head north on Route 8, we began to relax and enjoy the scenery. Route 8, north of Waterbury, cuts through mountains and in some places the valley is spread out below. At other places, the mountain closes in and rocks edge the highway to block the views. It’s in these places that in the spring, or after a heavy rain, water runs down the rock face.
Mom was slowly going blind, she couldn’t see these tiny rivers of water, but she knew where they should be and pointed them out as I drove by. At first, she thought the water wasn’t flowing, but then realized that at this distance, she could no longer see the trickles of water. When I confirmed that the water was there, she was satisfied.
She pointed out the Thomaston Dam and asked if I remember watching it being built. I don’t. Then she remembered that I wasn’t born yet, “Jon was small and Jay was still a baby in my arms,” she said.
As funny as it seems, this was not a sign of age for my Mother. In the fifty years that I’ve known her, she always had trouble remembering which of her five children belonged to a memory. Maybe if she had used a different letter of the alphabet besides ‘J” to name her children, it might have been different. Maybe, but I doubt it. It’s one of the quirks of our Mother that frustrates us when it’s happening but makes us laugh as we retell the story.
We left Route 8 and got on Route 44 in Winsted. She told me about the time the Mad River flooded. She was pregnant at the time (which child wasn’t discussed,) and helped collect food and clothing for friends who lost their homes.
As we drove, Mom pointed out landmarks and made comments. Through towns–see that theater they’re redoing? Past farmland–they used to keep sheep, we’d always show the grandkids the animals. A town hall–it burnt down and they tried to rebuild it in the old style, but it didn’t look right. Past a McDonald’s–we used to take your son there to eat.
McDonald’s is always in the memories of rides taken with grandchildren. The Blackberry Inn figured into the memories of rides that just Mom and Dad would take. Many times, it was the goal–a slow Sunday drive, on back roads, through small towns and then dinner. My son learned at an early age that if he wanted to go on a special ride all he had to do was ask and he would be whisked away to Old Saybrook to see sailboats and watch as the Connecticut River flowed into the sound. Or to Kent to play at the park and see the falls. And always to miniature golf.
Mom told me that one of my nephews was taking his wife and son to all the places that his Grandparents had taken him. She asked him how he remembered everyplace when he was so young when he went. He replied, “Grandma. I remember it all.”
And I will always remember driving with my Mother.