It was just about this time of year, in 1987, that we moved to Westport from the Upper West Side of Manhattan. We had with us two small boys (they were 5 and 3, respectively) and 15 years worth of accumulation from New York City married life. In a way it was a hard move: It’s never simple relocating kids, and the change from city life to suburban life was a bit disorienting. But in another way the move was easy: All of our belongings had fit in a two-bedroom New York apartment, and now we could spread out into a house that to us, at least, seemed ginormous. One closet off an upstairs bedroom we dubbed the “luggage closet” — a space for nothing but suitcases, duffels, and backpacks. This was an unthinkable luxury, after years of having had to store all my writing files in the space under my desk that was supposed to be for my legs.
The days leading up to the move were trying, as was moving day itself. By four o’clock that first day in Westport I told my wife I had to go for a run. In those days I ran five miles a day, religiously. (Though I still run today, it’s way less than five miles, and I’m not very religious about it.) Exercise and space are two things I’ve always needed, desperately. In fact, two of the main reasons I forced the move to the ’burbs (Carol was not in favor, to put it mildly) were 1.) I felt so claustrophobic in our not-terribly-spacious city apartment that I was actually having anxiety attacks, and when I couldn’t get down to nearby Riverside Park, I’d go out on our fire escape and pretend it was a terrace; and 2.) I learned that the school in which our older son was enrolled for first grade used, as their “fields” for gym, the roof of the building — and that when the time came for Little League, he’d have to be bused or driven to Randalls Island. None of this felt quite right.
So it was against this backdrop that I set out on my first run as a Westport resident. I didn’t really know the local geography at all (other than what I’d picked up a few months earlier on a run with our Westport friend Steve, when we were house-hunting, but that was in another part of town), though I did know enough to head for the water. Two-and-a-half miles later, after making a few random turns, I found myself on an idyllic little grassy stretch, looking out at picture-postcard-perfect Southport Harbor. What a knockout view! I couldn’t believe this was where I now lived. I felt like I’d died and gone to heaven.
Last month — 31 years later — we found ourselves moving again. By this time, the little boys who had been five and three were 36 and 34. Both married. Thirty-four had a baby. We’d also had a third son along the way, now 24, the only Nutmeg native among us. All three boys were out on their own. There was no longer a need for a house big enough to have a dedicated luggage closet.
In a way, this move was easier — just across town, from Greens Farms to Compo Beach. But in a way it was a lot more difficult. We’d downsized — big-time. We also had 31 years of “precious” stuff from three sons’ school and athletic careers to sift through — report cards, projects, various writings, award certificates, newspaper clips, photos, trophies — and we were two parents who weren’t very good at throwing things out. On top of that, I’d coached most of the boys’ youth teams, and the youngest made me save each and every scorebook, so that when the next argument came up over which son was the best athlete, he’d have proof that he was that son.
Again, at the end of moving day, I went for a run. This time, of course, I knew my way around Westport, and I knew where I was going. I headed out across Bradley to the basketball courts at Compo, then around the perimeter of the beach parking area, past the marina, the picnic tables, the cannons, the pavilion, then continued along Soundview, past the jetties, and up to Elvira’s and the ghost of Positano/Beach House/Café de la Plage. Then, back down Soundview to Danbury Avenue and the “new” house.
The run was maybe three miles, not five. But the vistas were just as stunning as the one that blew me away 31 years before at Southport Harbor.
And I came to the same conclusion: Heaven. Just a different part.
“The Home Team” appears the first Friday of every month. You can also keep up with Hank’s adventures on his blog, “Beagle Man,” on the Westport News website, at: http://blog.ctnews.com/beagleman/ To reach Hank, email him at DoubleH50@gmail.com.