A Belated Thank You

Posted: February 1st, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Friends and Strangers, Little Rhody, Mom | No Comments »

I’m way behind on my thank you notes, and unfortunately there is one that I no longer have an opportunity to send.

The father of my great childhood–and adulthood–friends the Connerys died two weeks ago today. Mr. C was as good an egg as there is. I don’t know what all to say to describe him because when you describe someone you liked who has since died it all sounds so cheesy and trite. But Mr. Connery was this good-natured Irish American guy who looked a lot like Jimmy Stewart, always seemed to be wearing madras plaid, and had those kinda twinkly friendly eyes. (I told you it’d sound cheesy.) That said, he also was one to tell it like it was.

Mr. Connery was never afraid to ask the “What’d you pay for that?” or “What’d you do that for?” kind of questions. And it was never obnoxious. It was just refreshingly candid. A couple years ago when his son Matt broke up with a girlfriend who Mr. C had vehemently approved of, he called her himself to let her know she was still welcome to come by the house on 4th of July. Nothing like the dad of a 40-something reaching out with a my-son-might-have-dumped-you-but-I-think-he-was-crazy-to phone call. Oy!

Somehow we–okay, I–overlooked inviting Mr. Connery to our wedding. It’s something I still kick myself over sometimes. Thankfully he never let it become the uncomfortable unspoken thing between us. When Mark and I dropped by to visit the Christmas after the wedding, he greeted us at the door saying, “You know I would have loved to have gone to that wedding!” I laughed and went to the kitchen to find John–leaving Mark to stammer his way through a response.

Anyway, when you’ve got history with someone, it gives you license be that up-front. Mr. Connery and my mom were friends back when they both looked hot in bathing suits and hung out in gangs of fresh-faced sunglass-wearin’ kids on the beaches of some New England town or other. It’s weird to think Mr. Connery knew my mom when she was probably smoking cigarettes out the bathroom window so her mom couldn’t smell the smoke. I ended up hanging out with the Connery kids through the same years of our lives. But in that self-absorbed way one has as a child, I never thought much about that ancient history our families had. I was more focused on my own friendships with Ellen, John and Matt. The thought that Mr. C and my mom might well have made out once (eeew!) never crossed my mind until just now. (And now I must deeply repress it.)

“The Connery Kids” as they’re dubbed in Bristol parlance, are all 100% originals. They were especially cool friends to have during teendom when adopting a more follow-the-flock life approach seemed the path to least resistance. But the Connerys were somehow hard-wired to not roll that way. They had the confidence to do their own things, so being with them let me do that too. With the Connerys, I let my freak flag fly (such as it was). I’m not saying I pierced my nose or anything–just that I never felt I had to act, dress, and speak in some prescribed way. Wackiness was welcomed. So my friendship with them was somewhat liberating, I guess. Plus, they were super fun, creative, and as the locals’d say, “wicked smaht.”

Example: One summer when Ellen had her tonsils removed she sent them into David Letterman. We watched the Viewer Mail segment religiously thereafter, desperately hoping she’d get some airtime. (She didn’t.)

So this is all my long way of saying that, especially as a parent myself now, I realize that cool kids are made from cool parents. Or maybe I should word it as: Cool kids probably just don’t happen on their own. More likely they come from the diligent good intentions of their parents. So, big props are due to Mr. and Mrs. C.

One thing they did right for sure was Forta July. Even after Mrs. Connery died about 10 years ago, Mr. C still hosted the Forta July celebration at their prime parade-route Victorian on High Street. Those first years with Mrs. C gone felt palpably different to those of us who expected her to round the corner at any moment with a cigarette in the corner of her mouth and a tray of brownies. But even without Mrs. C’s physical presence, the spirit of the Connery’s celebration was so strong it was irrepressible. And thank God. Going to the Connery’s is what makes July 4th like Christmas for the rest of us. When you’ve put something like that out there for so many people for so many years, you just can’t let your fans down.

And their fan base is sizable. Literally hundreds of friends and families of every age and description make 123 High Street their Mecca. It’s not uncommon to see a 70-something woman sitting on the back deck next to a young guy with a pompadour and sleeve tattoos, both of them cooing over how good the chourico and peppers is this year. Mr. C walks around in his Keds and Bermuda shorts taking in the parade with his own brand of low-key bemused enthusiasm. One heat-wave year he really got hopped up and dragged the hose around from the backyard. He had a hell of a time spraying down sweating polyester-clad band members as they marched by.

The parade ends each year with the Bristol Police cars bringing up the rear, and like a six-year-old I feel instantly and suddenly deflated that it’s over. We lope home from the Connery’s to my dad’s house and all the onlookers that lined the streets are suddenly sucked into backyards for barbeques. One minute a marching band stops to play a command performance for you (a priviledge we’ve grown to expect in the past few years Chez Connery), then suddenly it’s all over.

Getting back to California after our July 4th pilgrimage to Bristol always is a big transition for me. I miss Rhode Island summer and the beach. I question why I live so far away from family and friends in a place where we can’t even afford a house. And I feel a deep sense of honeymoon’s-over loss that I’ll have to wait another whole year until I feel like a kid again on the Connery’s front porch.

Last summer when I was struggling to get back into my big-girl real-life routine I realized I should send a thank you note to Mr. Connery for hosting my favorite day of the year. In fact, I should have been sending him thank yous for nearly twenty years of Forta Julys. Of course, some little thing must have come up to distract me from the thought, and I never got around to it. And now, all those un-written thank you notes later, I won’t ever have a chance to do it.

So, in my too-little, too-late way, I send a thank you out to you now, Mr. Connery, wherever you may be. Thanks for making Matt, John, and Ellen the greatest friends a gal could have–from my foolish youth to my childish adulthood. And thank you thank you for years upon years of small-town family friendship, and for graciously and grandly hosting my favorite party on my favorite day of the year. I don’t know whether there will be a 4th of July throw-down at your house again this summer, but if there is, I can assure you there will be hundreds of people there making it one hell of a tribute to you, and I’ll be there on the front porch as always, waving my flag like a crazy lady.

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