Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Memories of Back Home in Tiny Whitman

For those who didn't know, I moved from my lifelong home of Whitman, Massachusetts 2+ years ago, to take what appeared to be an exciting hockey job down in Kissimmee, Florida.  Sounds good, huh?  I mean, constant sunshine, decent pay, and the chance to do even more of what I love?

Ya, the best made plans...

It's old news now, though...  I arrived in the Sunshine State pretty psyched, prepared to be the GM and Head Coach of a new team in a new Junior league.  Only a matter of days after getting on the job, however, things started looking kinda fishy -- with my team owner, with the league founder/commissioner, and with my dawgone shrunken paycheck.

Cutting to the chase, let me say that the league crashed within weeks of my investing a lot of money -- plus my heart and soul -- in the move.  Given the conditions, I could either limp back to Massachusetts or limp through Florida, with the choice between snowdrifts and palm trees not being all that difficult.

Mom and little sister
One more thing...  My mom and dad had snow-birded it for as many winters as I can recall, they finally settled in Tampa full-time, and dad was eventually buried in nearby Brandon.  The sister closest to my age had already moved with her family to the outskirts of Tampa, my baby sis moved to Tarpon Springs soon after, and then my youngest brother took a job as an entertainer with Disney World (and he now appears at Universal Studios).  So, while my arrival left only one brother left back home -- the one who actually enjoyed the New England cold, he sadly passed away at a relatively young age only weeks ago.  The sum total of Chighisola's left back home, then, amounts to just a grandson and granddaughter, my brother's family, and an ex.

Now, folks in other parts of the world might be surprised to know that Thanksgiving throughout Massachusetts and surrounding states is associated as much with high school football as it is turkey and the Pilgrims.  I mean football is a biggie there, with many townspeople weathering the late-November cold to catch their favorite school team.

My tiny hometown is the smallest area-wise in MA, probably barely more than 2-miles in any direction.  There were only about 5,000 residents there when I was a kid, I'm sure it was more like in the hundreds when my dad was growing up there, but all the greenery has been covered by a greedy real estate tycoon or two to balloon it to 15,000-ish today.

Dad's grave site in Brandon
My late-dad
Speaking of my dad...  My grandmother owned the real "toll house" in Whitman.  Oh, I'm not talking about the world famous eatery, and the place where the Toll House cookies were first created, but instead the house where tolls were collected sometime back in the 1700's.  I never saw Mrs Wakefield, inventor of those cookies, but I did each fall swipe some awesome and real juicy apples from the trees that graced her yard.

My grandmother having bought the house in Whitman sometime around 1920, made my dad a second generation Whimanite, I was third generation, my son was fourth, and my grandson and granddaughter were fifth.  Kinda neat, huh?  No matter, though, because I was the last to leave 2-years ago.  (Just thinking...  What a long way from "home" it is for almost an entire family to relocate -- and to probably all be buried.)

Anyway, there's also a lengthy history to the local Thanksgiving morning football rivalry.  For, as you'll see in the following video, the last game I went to was the 100th..

Isn't it also neat the number of famous people to come from such a small high school?  And, I'm sure there are others I don't know about and couldn't mention.  (If you can add to the list, please let me know in a comment below.)

My dad and mom built our house a few hundred yards down the street from where he grew-up.  And from there -- since I was 2-years old, they raised five pretty happy and healthy kids.  In fact, I'll often say that I experienced almost a fairy tale childhood -- having my Lassie-like collie follow me everywhere through the neighborhood farmlands, riding a real horse to play cowboys and Indians, wobbling my bike with friends to fish at a nearby pond or river, and I of course had some success through youth, high school and semi-pro sports.  All five of us kids were musical, too, with both sisters dancing and playing the piano, and all three of us boys learning to play guitar and sing.  I did some of that, but cared a tad more for sports, while my brothers both sang and played professionally.

Thankgiving at the Chighisola House was nearly as special as Christmas and Christmas Eve.  Ya, we were probably about 20-miles from Plymouth, the site of the original Thanksgiving ceremony, but my mom tried to top the Pilgrims each year.  As we kids all married and had our own families, the table grew in length to accommodate almost twenty in all.  Actually, mom and the girls might stay home to cook if one of us boys wasn't playing in a morning high school football game; while the guys might even pass up the local game for one that promised to be for a championship.  Brockton High School -- in the neighboring city of that name, and home to Rocky Marciano and Marvelous Marvin Hagler (among other famous folks) -- always seemed to be playing for something important.  (Rocky used to run through our little farm community during the 1950's, and I can remember our dog knowing he was coming from a good quarter-mile away.)

Fast-forward to 2014...  Brenda and mom attended a special Monday Thanksgiving at the clubhouse here within our complex (while I still had some writing to do for CoachChic.com).  On Thursday, the three of us will meet my remaining siblings and their families at the older of my two sisters' house not far from here. 

Will I miss things back home?  Hmmmmmm...  That's not an easy thing to explain.  As an example of the way I think, however...  I sense that my mom and dad knew that the old homestead would soon be torn down for a new development not long after they left for good.  We all had an honest to goodness cry the day they left, but I ultimately offered to mom, "The memories for us shouldn't be about a building, but instead about all the great things that took place there."  Ya, it was the people -- great parents, great brothers and sisters, and all the awesome relatives and friends who came to visit -- that made the true difference.

How will I feel about not getting back to another Whitman-Hanson versus Abington football game, and not getting to once again walk across the old field?  Oh, I'll maybe miss seeing some of my school chums and teammates, but I'll most likely think more about "... all the great things that took place there."
Happy Thanksgiving, all, from Brenda, little Raggs and me.

And thanks for letting me share some things that still mean an awful lot to me.