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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Chowder and Friends

 Bubs 1, mom and I returned to the chowder festival this year. We missed last year, because Bubs 2 was too little to subject to the harsh outside winter temps. So this year marks his first chowder fest... and he darn near slept through it all.

I am unsure if this was Bubs 1's second or third time back. We have been living in the area for a total of four chowder fests, or otherwise measured in years and that would make us living here for four years now. I remember the last festival we attended, I think Bubs 1 was 28 or 29 months old. He was able to walk, but not stable enough to simply walk with us yet. He was this year.

Clam chowders and chicken corn chowders seemed to be the dominant chowders out there this year. Both mom and I couldn't eat any more. We had to give away our last three tickets. We had met our chowder limit. Bubs 1 had reached his limit too. He didn't want to sample any of the chowder, but he did enjoy the social interactions. He found a friendly cat, a couple of guys on stilts and his favorite spot - the duck pond. We had duck food from a previous visit to the village (mom saves everything) and Bubs 1 couldn't wait to feed it all to his webbed-foot buddies. He met some new friends, who asked to feed the ducks with his duck food. With mom's encouragement, Bubs 1 agreed. We also encouraged the bubs to ask for the names of his new friends. He then identified himself as Luke Skywalker (again). We've been living as the cast for Star Wars for over a month now. I've apparently been demoted (in my opinion) to C3PO, from once being Han Solo. It was Bubs 1 idea. He also renamed Bubs 2 R2D2, who was once Chewbacca. Mom has always stayed Princess Laya. All of this Star Wars stuff made the parents (or maybe they were grandparents), of Bubs 1's new friends, laugh.

In attempting to make a connection to my past, as most of my blog posts do, I can only remember the Sussex County Farm and Horse Show. There is a picture of me riding a pony in some small corral, with a local volunteer guiding the animal in circles as kids took their turns riding it. It was held at the Sussex County Fairgrounds, which may have been an annual event. Click this, or the previous sentence, for more on this event.

Sussex County, NJ region is known more for it's farming, than it's chowder. I only say this because I ate Cambells New England Clam Chowder as a kid. I used to prefer the Manhattan style, but soon realized what I've been missing - the fat. I'm taking a statin pill now, so at least my cholesterol is safe.

There wasn't a chowder festival where I grew up. The big draw was Vernon Valley Action Park. I remember when that park opened. It was a popular ski mountain during the winters and now a water ride park during the summers. My brother worked there when it opened. I think he worked with the kayak water ride. I never skied, and only went to the summer park a couple of times before moving from that area. I remember my last trip to Action Park. It was my 13th birthday, the Summer of 1983. My mom brought me and my friends down there. She also brought this guy named Fred. I think that Fred was one of the first guys she dated after my father left the house the year before. That last summer's memories in the area used to haunt me. Now is just lurks around in my mind. It no longer increases the adrenalin levels in my blood stream when I happen upon a memory. That summer was more than just memories of a broken home, it was also the time when I entered my teenage years. Good memories too. I remember my friends and I got drunk for the first time (on white wine) at Mike Passante's house. We befriended some girls from around the area and music videos were very popular. I even remember the Eurythmics, Sweet Dreams are Made of These, video. We watched it all the time. It was a great place to be a teenager. It was a mountain lake community and we hung out at the beach each day and down at the lake club house each night.

 To this day, whenever I hear that Eurythmics song, I think of that summer in my life. It sounded like a fun summer, and it was. But it also had a lot of pain. I was slowly losing my friends. My behavior was changing. I my own boss at that time, because my mom worked two jobs and my brother was living elsewhere. I heated up my own frozen dinners for supper and basically ran the       household. My mother would share her anger of my father. She'd also share her anger about his family with me. My mother felt that everyone had turned on her once my dad left. She was scared. She'd make me sleep on the floor, next to the couch in the living room, where she slept each night. She wouldn't sleep in her bed much anymore. I'd have to lay there and listen to her cry herself to sleep. Sometimes she's ask me to ''pray that your father comes home.'' The latter never happened. It was also at that time when I learned that she was planning to leave the area and move us to Roselle, NJ. She told me that the bank was taking our house. I didn't want to move to Roselle. So I decided to move in with my dad. My father lived with my aunt, uncle and cousins. They had a big house and it seemed like a nicer place to live than with my grandmother, in Roselle. I mentioned the ill feelings that I harbored about that almost-Roselle move in a previous blog. Not wanting to live in that town really the core reason why I moved in with my dad and cousins. I even agreed to attend a Catholic school, which is a big indication of how much I didn't want to live in with my mom in my grandmother's house, in... yes, Roselle, NJ.

So I gradually became more removed from my friends, because I guess it is easier to leave people when they aren't that close to you. I didn't consciously think that at the time, but it seems to sound good in hindsight. Another factor that made it easier for me to leave was that an old friend/neighbor returned to the area, that last summer. His name was Kevin Carmody. He turned out to be my nemesis. I beat him in one-on-one basketball games and he hated me for it. He eventually capitalized on my negative behavior, that summer, and increased my distance from my other friends. I soon realized that Kevin was running the show and had a lot of power over me. It really did make leaving much easier.

It wasn't until after 20-some-odd years that I later found out, from those same friends, that Kevin even turned on them. I had already left, but it was validating to hear that Kevin eventually showed his true colors to the others.

I still keep in touch with some of those friends. Time heals all wounds. In fact, one of those friends lives nearby and has a daughter the same age as Bubs 1. We periodically get the kids together and keep updated on each others' lives. I want both Bubs 1 and Bubs 2 to have good friends like this too. I would like to see them enjoy lifetime friends, without the pain. There is a lot of healing from that time in my life whenever I hang out with those friends today. It's powerful to have good friends.

In fact, one of the reasons why the bubs' mom wanted to have Bubs 2 was to create a lifelong friend for Bubs 1. She also has a few of these lifelong friends. Now I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with new friends, we both have many. However, keeping those lifelong friends around is simply a good idea.

Oh, and I'd like for both bubs to enjoy some good chow-da too.

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