Sunday, August 29, 2010


It was around the time that Santa stopped coming to town, the day Divorce started coming around.

It started with Mrs. Blanc across the street back on Vineyard Lane. I heard my parents talking about it, they weren’t friends with the Blancs, but they knew Mr. Blanc had just up and left one day. Mrs. Blanc had a short boy haircut and a mean face, although she seemed nice, never yelling or anything. They didn’t have any kids, but had the same house we all had on the street. 4 bedrooms and 2 and a half baths, they called them. I was wondering if Mrs. Blanc was lonely in that big house all by herself and I wondered where the heck Mr. Blanc had gone to, I never saw him again. Soon though, there was a real stunner of a car parked in their turnaround. The kind I had only seen in the star magazines. It was red, with the top down, a Mustang they called it. Most of the ladies I knew in Westport had these clunky station wagons, but I’d see Mrs. Blanc hop into that red Mustang, gun it out of the driveway gravel flying everywhere, barely stopping at the stop sign at the end of our street. It looked like divorce was treating Mrs. Blanc A-O.K.

Next the Slomans moved in next door to Mrs. Blanc on Vineyard lane. My parents called them “The Slomans” but there wasn’t a daddy at their house, although there were two daughters. One of the girls. “Sarah”, looked like she could be in The Mickey Mouse Club; blond, blue eyes, very cheerful type of girl. I liked “Kathy” – she had a wicked sense of humor, particularly for an 8 year old. She had much darker skin than her sister, different hair, a wide nose, and a big bottom the likes that I had never seen on any kid at my school. News on Vineyard Lane was that Mrs. Sloman had made intercourse with a school bus driver, a black man and had Kathy a few months later. I loved black men, we had two in town, one was my pediatrician, Dr. Beasley who was the best pediatrician in town. He and his wife couldn’t buy the house they wanted, they had to have another doctor, a white man pose as the buyer so that he and Mrs. Doctor Beasley could move into the neighborhood. Then there was Mr. Rudd, the other black man in town – our librarian at Burr Farms Elementary School. He was quiet, wise, and kind. The day Dr. Martin Luther King got shot, Mr. Rudd got even more quiet, brought a television into school so we could learn all about him. Mr. Rudd barely spoke for a few days, all you could hear in the library were the sounds of the wooden chairs being pushed in and out from the tables, and the murmer of the broadcast from the small-ish TV Mr. Rudd brought from home. Mrs. Sloman’s bus driver brought the count up to three, although I didn’t really know him. I thought she exhibited good taste in gentlemen; Dr. Beasley and Mr. Rudd the librarian were both fine men, as dashing as the actor Sidney Poitier who I had seen in a movie fall in love with a pretty white lady and in another movie where he was a teacher that made bad white kids behave because he was very nice to be around and sometimes had dance parties for them right there in the gym. I wondered if Mrs. Sloman’s bus driver used similar techniques on his bus route, kids behaved so badly on the school bus, but I heard he worked at the next town over, Norwalk, were the “less fortunate” people lived, so that was that.

Next it was the Baxter’s two houses down from us on Vineyard Lane. Mrs. Baxter was very pretty, they had two sons and a lot of modern furniture. Mr. Baxter made me nervous, he would tell jokes you shouldn’t say in front of children and always smoked a cigar in the house; he reminded me of Dean Martin if he had kids and lived in Westport. Downstairs they had a room that Mr. Baxter called his office. It had a lot of framed pictures of naked ladies, and us kids were always sent to play down there. My parents told me that the naked pictures were OK, and didn’t hurt Mrs. Baxter’s feelings because it had something to do with his job. But soon enough, Mr. Baxter was suddenly gone, and in fact Mrs. Baxter’s feelings did seem to be hurt, her pretty face didn’t smile much after that. I didn’t really care where Mr. Baxter had gone off to, I figured it was someplace where they have a lot of dirty stuff and no kids. I just wondered if he took his naked lady pictures with him so Mrs. Baxter wouldn’t have to live with them. Soon after I saw men putting all her white furniture in a moving truck and drive away, she didn’t tell anyone on the street where.

What was going on here on Vineyard Lane? The Hendersons seemed OK, but they were the age of grandmas and grandpas back before they invented divorce. My mom and dad seemed OK, my mom spent a lot of time weeding, she loved weeding, it relaxed her, she said, and she wouldn’t yell at us for at least an hour afterwards. My dad spent Saturdays drinking beer with a blue ribbon on the can that he would poor into a heavy glass mug that he kept in the freezer for just these occasions. Sometimes he would let me poor it for him, showing me how to slowly flow the golden liquid along the side of the glass so you wouldn’t get too much foam on top. “Don’t tell your mother,” he’d say as he let me take one sip out of the mug, holding it for me. That was the only secret my dad kept from my mom as far as I could tell, so I figured they would stay married forever. “That’s enough,” he’d say as I’d guzzle a bit, making me feel fuzzy and tired in a good way. I was glad that he reprimanded me, I knew that my mom would agree, and it was further proof that they wouldn’t be heading down divorce lane.

My parents stayed together until the day my dad passed away. Their best friends stayed together, too; the Kails and the Wachtels. The three couples all had three kids, and we’d all head down to the beach late in the day on Saturdays after the crowds cleared out and you couldn’t get a sunburn. My mom would make baked friend chicken, and someone always had a box of Yodels. We would swim with our dads while the moms drank wine they transported to the beach in rinsed out Sanka jars.

But divorce was spreading through Westport like chicken pox. One of my mom’s best friends, Mrs. Patterson, her husband was running to catch the 5:02 to New Haven, slipped and his leg got caught underneath the train, the doors closed and the train started to ride out before anyone could do anything, taking his leg with it. He was a newspaper man, dignified and quiet because he had something called “depression”, but became even more quiet after that then hung himself up in the attic one Sunday afternoon. It wasn’t a divorce but it seemed like it, now there was just a mom in a big house with a bunch of kids. She never seemed sad, though, she turned his office into a crafts room and she would invite me over and teach me how to make decoupage, which itself was very boring but we always had some good laughs. My dance teacher, Dorian Kates was a real stunner, I was wondering how my mom could have her over for dinner with my dad there and not get jealous. Her actor husband had “run out on her” my parents would say. Dorian started to invite me over to her house a lot, I was getting older, I loved her house and tried to model my room after it; she had groovy stuff like a giant flag from England on the wall, old Indian bedspreads thumbtacked to the ceiling, and long strings of beads hanging where the doors had once been. She had a vase by her bed, I picked it up to admire it and found a fake penis inside there. She never seemed sad, I was starting to think divorce wasn’t the end of the world. The husbands would leave town, taking their naked lady pictures with them and their cigars, and the next thing you’d know there would be a crafts room, an England flag over the fireplace, or a red Mustang convertible in your driveway.

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