The Wild Turkeys of Hamden, Connecticut

1.

Before I had even taken my coat off from the five hour drive, S. noticed and admired my new ring. A big chunk of grey-blue Labradorite set in bright sterling that I scored in the clearance bin at TJMaxx the week before for $20.

Before an hour had gone by, I found myself standing at the kitchen counter, mincing garlic with a super-sharp knife. C. had asked me to make a marinade for the flank steak as she walked out the door for the night.

These things mean I am at home.

More specifically, I am in Connecticut, at the home of the women I met sixteen years ago when I came to work as a nanny for their children, then aged 4 and 8. Those “kids” are now 19 and 23.

I’ve been here since Saturday, and each morning I wake up and try to write about what it feels like to be here. Words keep failing. This is one of those places, and these are people about whom I have too much to say, too much to feel. I know better than to try to capture them in a blog post, yet on Thanksgiving, I also know I want to say something.

2.

Paul and I were married here. I mean *exactly* here–at this very kitchen table I sit at now to write. We had a beautiful ceremony in the back yard, in what had once been the tomato garden, on a beautiful late May afternoon. But the ceremony was only symbolic and the legal part happened that morning with a justice of the peace–a friend of the family. We sat here in our pajamas and made vows over pancakes and orange juice, surrounded by people who have, over the years, become as close to me as any biological family could ever be.

3.

Sometimes I think I forced myself on them.

I was 25 when I met them. Married and heading toward divorce. Working a second job at a crappy mall jewelry store. Not yet in grad school. Miserable in many ways. They paid me to care for their children, not knowing, I’m sure, how I would come to love and need them. Who can ever predict the way people imprint in our lives? They paid me, but I always felt like that “job” was really a life preserver. A gift.

I arrived, bereft, one day after my husband had left (this was early on), and S said, “We’re going to Lenny’s for lobster rolls. Come with us.” There is a picture of me holding their son in my lap on the beach. I look almost happy.

I attended S’s 40th birthday party dressed like a sad sea otter (under the sea theme) and C introduced me to some people as “the third mother.” I have cried at every graduation (middle, high, college) they’ve invited me to. Proud, proud.

I was about to sign a lease on a too-expensive apartment nearby when they called and said, “Don’t do it. Move into the basement for six months. Let us help you.” I would not be where I am right now without their financial, familial, emotional help.

I hope I’ve helped them over the years. I think I have.

4.

Everyone’s still asleep here. My son and I came downstairs together at 7:30. Eyes bleary and focused only on the espresso machine on the counter, we walked through the front room which used to be where their daughter (now an opera singer) practiced her violin too fast. I almost missed them but caught in the corner of my eye a mass of dark movement out the window.  A flock of wild turkeys–maybe 15 of them–on the front lawn near the street. Rudy was delighted. We took pictures and laughed, watching them wag and bob and waddle on their way.

There are two dogs that live here now, but before they arrived, back when I lived in the basement apartment with the cat who brought mice to my bed, the turkeys sometimes congregated in the back yard. One morning, their six year old son said to me, “Sheila, what are those big birds out there?” I, focused probably on getting my coffee, said, “Oh, those are crows, I’m sure.”

“Uh, no, Sheila. Those are definitely not crows…”

I looked and this time, saw. Screamed, “Jump on to my back! Let’s go!” And the two of us dashed out the door, chased those turkeys around the back yard, breathless and laughing.

He probably doesn’t remember it but I sure do.

I remember everything.

Gratefully.

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