Amazing Day

After spending the afternoon making Hoppin’ John, followed by a pleasant New Year’s Eve at Cypress, Larry and I ventured to our friend Patti’s house on New Year’s Day. She’s maintained the tradition of open house for more than twenty-five years. We’re honored to be part of it. Patti knows everyone in southern Connecticut (that might be a bit of an exaggeration but not much) so it’s always great fun. I’ve re-connected with old friends there – people I didn’t know knew Patti, though I should have figured they would.

The first year Larry and I went, I met a woman who had known my friend Thelma when they both lived in Hartford. She was also a friend of someone I met through the church in Newington.

The next year I was chatting happily with a woman who had dated my former boss, Ken Robinson. I knew Peggy and Patti were friends because I’d seen them at other several gatherings, mostly for the community foundation when Patti was president and CEO. As I was talking to Peggy, she looked up and said, “Larry? Larry Riley?” Larry said, “Yes.” It turned out that they had gone to the same high school. Peggy graduated the year after he did.

OK, so far not so unusual. Nothing prepared me for what happened this year.

The first inkling was a brief discussion of the deWolfes of Rhode Island and their involvement with the slave trade. Patti was outraged that the docents at their house in Bristol ignore this part of their lives. She mentioned Traces of the Trade, which I had learned about in 2002 when I was working on Complicity for the Hartford Courant. Producer Katrina Browne brought a rough cut of the film to the Gilder Lehrman center when she was trying to raise money. The film concerns her journey to uncover her deWolfe ancestors’ part in the triangle trade, which took her to the slave pens at Goree Island and to Cuba where the deWolfe slavers discharged their human cargo and shipped the molasses and the sugar that came back to New England to make rum. I was thoroughly surprised that Patti knew of this film because I didn’t know that Katrina had finished it.

We were wrapping up that discussion – noting the DeWolfes’ compatriots were the Browns who founded Brown University — when a beautiful woman named Wendy arrived. The first thing I noticed was her exquisite necklace. Then I heard her mention that she designs jewelry and has had her pieces in Saks and other stores with impeccable taste. Here’s a sampling of her gorgeous wares. She also mentioned that she runs Artists for World Peace, a foundation that promotes peace through humanitarian projects. She went this summer to Tanzania as part of the project and fell in love with it.

We chatted for some time and then someone asked, “Do you live in Middletown?” She replied yes. I asked where, and she named our street! I asked what number. She gave a number that is five doors away from where I sit as I write this entry! I almost fell off the chair – had that same punched in the gut feeling as when Zenju mentioned that her mother came from the same town in Louisiana where my father was born (“Moving Experience VI“). While I had to travel to Amsterdam to meet a woman who lives in California to make that connection, this meeting may have been inevitable. Wendy and her husband have lived up the street for ten years, but I’d never laid eyes on either one of them until I met her at Patti’s.

So nice to usher in the new year with a new friend and neighbor!

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