A segment of Center Street in Southport has become one way. In the scheme of things and with everything else going on in the world, this news isn't all the earth-shattering, except for the people who live on this portion of Center Street or for the motorists who don't pay attention.
But for me, the news brought back a flood of memories. You see, Southport -- the area from the Village, down to Pequot Library, Center Street, Wakeman Boys and Girls Club, Rennell Drive and Old Post Road -- was my other neighborhood when I was a kid. My mother and her siblings were born and raised in Southport, and Grandma Rose, until her death in 1978, lived at 251 Old Post Road -- which, by the way, no longer exists. Her house and those around hers were torn down years ago, and in their place are the Delmar and Southport Green luxury developments.
My siblings and cousins walked around all those streets surrounding Grandma's house during the times we visited her. Her house was the center of our young lives, as that was the place where the extended family gathered, usually for her birthday party, which she threw for herself.
This was just not a house, it was a source of fond childhood memories. Grandma and Grandpa Rose moved into the house as they began to raise their nine children. My mother was born there 86 years ago. It wasn't a very big house, and times were hard for the family during the 1920s, '30s and '40s. Grandma became a widow at the age of 59. I never knew my grandfather, who I've seen from photos was a little Italian man with a kind smile. My mother looks very much like him. The family was poor, and I can't remember a time when Grandma didn't struggle to survive.
As her family grew, and her children married and raised their own families, Grandma, a robust woman with soft white hair who loved having her kin around her, found an excuse to have a party or picnic. She had difficulty walking, and her eyesight was poor, so she stayed in the house manning the kitchen while the rest of the family was in the backyard. She regularly got updates to her question, "Who's here?"
During some of these soirees, my cousins and I would explore the neighborhood. We'd head out her driveway, go down Old Post Road to Sasquanaug Park, where the large rock resembling a duck fascinated us. We were warned never to venture too far into the park, so we just lingered for a while and moved on. We sometimes wandered up to the train platform, and if my brother was with us, he bravely would place a coin on the rail and wait for a train to pass over it. (The adults were livid when they found out we got that close to the train tracks.) If Switzer's or Soter's was open, we browsed and usually left with handfuls of candy we purchased with the money my brother hadn't flattened on the tracks. We then would walk around to Wakeman's and play on the swings, all the while talking about school and friends and news about the family. Shortly afterward, we'd make our way back, down Rennell Drive to Grandma's.
Back at the house, a few relatives entertained Grandma inside while the men -- my father and uncles -- were engrossed in the traditional poker game. (I remember the time they permitted my cousin Kathy to play with them, and if I recall correctly, she did pretty well.) My mother and her sisters, relaxing after cooking and serving and cleaning up, sat on lawn chairs with cups of coffee chatting (or gossiping). Occasionally, someone would dream up some kind of game for the kids to play.
All of the aunts and uncles, except for my mother, have died. The first cousins, including the ones I wandered those streets with, are well into their 50s, 60s and 70s and live in various parts of the country. Two of them, including poker player Kathy, have passed on. There are now second and third cousins, some of whom have never known what it was like to get together with the loud, loving Rose family.
They were wonderful summer days with my cousins that I am forever grateful to have had.