By Thomas Lawlor

A few years ago, I flew out to California to officiate at the wedding of my niece Abbey. After I landed, I paid $88 and became a temporary justice of the piece. When I performed the ceremony, I boldly proclaimed. "By the powers vested in me by the state of California..." My sister Ann started violently coughing. She had loaned me 20 of the $88. I thought they took credit cards. Ann knew I had no power vested in me by anyone.

It is with similar authority that I am going to hand out Awards to the Town of Fairfield. These awards are very random and represent my whim and the whim of my family. They are part of the reason we love it here. If the Awards appear biased toward the places and people my family associates with, it is because that is exactly what they are.

Citizenship Award: Mill Hill fifth grade teachers. A few months ago, my seventh-grade daughter Julia saw a sign on some trees that were to be cut down to make room for a development. We acquired the plans from Planning and Zoning, and Julia determined that the tree removal was unnecessary. She wrote the Tree Warden, he agreed and the trees were saved. She told me she learned in fifth grade at Mill Hill that if you don't like something, you could change it. In another incident this year, three fifth-grade Mill Hill boys challenged the town's ban on skimboards at the beaches. They scored a partial victory. I talked to one of the teachers, Mr. Shire. He said, "In fifth grade we concentrate on the Constitution. What they do with that knowledge is up to them."

Attentive Service Award: Pequot Library. Our tax dollars only account for a third of what the library needs to function. The rest is made up by fundraising, such as the giant book sale in the summer, and volunteers. To raise funds and encourage volunteers they need to be more in touch with the community than strictly public institutions. An example: My daughter returned a book with a photograph left in it as a bookmark. The library called the next day, and talked to my wife.

"You left a picture in a returned book; it will be at the front desk"

"How do you know it's ours?"

"I can see you, your husband, Caroline and Julia. You are standing in front of a slide with a little boy. Who's that?"

"I know the picture now. That's my nephew."

"He's cute"

"Isn't he?"

Confidence Award: Villari's Studios of self-defense. Both my daughter Julia and I go to the karate school. It is very reasonably priced, and you can go at your own pace. Julia is farther along than I am. My pace is a little slower. Friends of ours recently said their special-needs child has gained confidence as a direct result of the classes there.

Brick and Mortar Award: Media Wave. This may be the last video store. They seem to be hanging in there with services such as CD and DVD repair and "dinner and a movie." It's a great deal. We have done it twice. You purchase a soda and a movie at Media Wave then pick up the pizza at the place across the parking lot.

When we have video movie night with the neighbors, we always argue about the movies. There have been two hands-down favorites, both were Media Wave recommendations. The movies everybody loved. "The Perfect Game" and "Secondhand Lions."

Best Pierogies: St Anthony's Church summer picnic. I am not a big fan of sauerkraut. However, the cheese ones are fantastic. You can buy them frozen to take home. I eat all the cheese pierogies within a week

Community Spirit: Sammy's Southport Pizza. No matter how harried the staff is, Sammy always has a smile for you. The shop also donates to local causes and lets non-profits put posters up in their windows. Sammy donates to our New Year's Day Jump in Southport Harbor to raise money and awareness for Epidermolysis Bullosa.

Most Unique Night Out: Storytelling at the Fairfield museum. I have attended and participated in this event. People tell focused stories of their lives. There are always different storytellers, telling different stories. If you attend it a thousand times, no two will be alike. The next one is Feb. 9 with the theme "Love Hurts."

No Awards ceremony can conclude without a video montage of the ones that are no longer with us. On our list this year is Borders. We will miss Bob there, and the comfortable chairs. Friendlys is also on the list. Derek had our drinks before we even sat down. Karen and Alfreda were very helpful. I am not putting the Community Theatre on the gone list. I still have hope.

Thomas Lawlor lives in Southport with his wife and two daughters. His "A Father's Journal" appears every other Wednesday. He can be reached at: tlawlor@mcommunications.com