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    Tuesday, March 05, 2024

    The Good Old Days: A special season called autumn when a joy ride opened eyes

    “Snowfall in October,” image at Sacred Heart Church, Norwich, by photographer Peter Danyliw. Photo submitted

    As soon as the autumn leaves began to fall, my mother would say, “In order for us to better understand what is important in life, God created a special season called ‘autumn.’ For as much as we try to capture its beauty, it is short-lived and passes quickly. This is why we must find joy in every moment. Take nothing for granted, and appreciate the life you have, for there is always someone with less.“

    As a teenager, I never fully understood this concept. It was not until a beautiful fall day in October 1970 when the concept became real.

    It was my senior year at the Norwich Free Academy when my cousin Bobby and I decided it was much too beautiful a day to stay in school. Bobby was more than willing to drive us downtown to visit our friend Lillian who worked as a waitress behind the lunch counter at Woolworth.

    Lillian should have been in school with us, but had dropped out. Her family was poor and she had not been treated kindly in school. After so many years of torment, she had chosen hard work versus the life of a student that many of us do not appreciate until after we enter the real world.

    We found Lillian behind the lunch counter carrying trays of heavy plates, and I knew her childhood days had been derailed. Bobby knew it too.

    “I think we should take Lillian on a joy ride,” he said.

    A joy ride was basically driving around Norwich stopping at our favorite places that gave us joy. Lillian was thrilled at the prospect. Her shift would end at noon.

    We piled into Bobby’s green Ford Fairlane with the pointed rear fins that made it look as though it would fly into outer space at any moment.

    Our first stop was Meeting House Rocks. We walked behind the First Congregational Church and up the hill, following the winding path to the top. Dry leaves crunched underneath our feet, leaving the aroma of autumn days passing in time. At the top, we saw the familiar church benches and large cross overlooking the city of Norwich.

    Bobby walked over to the cross, bowed his head, and made the sign of the cross. My cousin did not go to church. He said Christ is everywhere and knows where he lives. Looking down at the the city below, we seemed to have entered a different world where everyone was at peace. We had found joy.

    Mohegan Park was next on the list. On the way to the playground, Bobby climbed to the top of the highest oak tree. We hollered for him to come down, but he only laughed.

    When we finally made it to the playground, we headed straight for the swings and seesaw. Later, we stopped at the beach and waded our feet in the water.

    When we returned to the car, Lillian had to go home and make supper for her siblings.

    “I will never forget this day,” she said. “Thank you for helping me remember my childhood.”

    After Bobby took me home, I was upset. I told my mother about Lillian.

    My mother always knew what to say. “We cannot change people’s lives. Only God can. But we can be a light that helps them find their way. Be a light.”

    Concetta Falcone-Codding is a 1971 graduate of the Norwich Free Academy and the author of The Lonely Nest. You can contact at: concettafalconecodding1@gmail.com

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