I write this poem (at right) because we are leaving home. The only home I’ve really ever known. It wasn’t my first home, but after 20 years of living on Park Street, the Sauerhoffs are leaving New Canaan.
But the history of the Sauerhoffs in New Canaan extends much beyond 20 years. In fact, us moving in 2015 makes this the 49th year that a Sauerhoff has lived in New Canaan.
Forty-nine years! My grandparents, Jack and Margaret, came here with their five children in 1966 and lived here for the rest of their lives.
New Canaan means so much to our family, so I thought that it would be fitting to share with you both my thoughts and memories of 20 years in New Canaan. Don’t worry, I have my tissues ready.
My honest to god first memory of this town is my first day of kindergarten in 1996. We had just completed our first year of living here and I remember being both excited and nervous to start school—as were my parents. As the story goes in my family, the bus didn’t come that morning. Well it came—it just didn’t come to pick up me. A unique thing about our home is that the complex we live in faces Park St. but our driveway is on the adjacent Mead St. So when the bus drove by our place on Park Street and saw no one standing there, it just kept on driving. Nothing wrong with that, right? I mean, there was no one there so it didn’t stop.
Except I was there, waiting with my mom, nana and a couple of neighbors and their mom up on Mead.
So when the bus didn’t stop I told my mom, as only a 5-year-old can, “That’s it! I’m not going to kindergarten! The bus didn’t come!” Thankfully, my mom wasn’t easily convinced as she and Nana drove me in to school that day, and I began on my journey through the New Canaan Public School system in Miss Rende (now Mrs. Charkales) and Mrs. Tomey’s class.
And what an education it was.
I think it’s safe to say that one of the many perks of living in this town is the school system. It’s one of the top reasons families with children look to move here. My parents were no different, and I am forever grateful for it. I’m grateful for it though not just because of being taught how to read and write, multiply and divide (though I never did master long division), historical facts, nor even to think critically.
I’m most grateful for the teachers and friends that I got to meet and develop long-term relationships with. That’s the greatest thing that the New Canaan Public School system gave me.
One of my closest friends today, Brandon Sorbara, I met even before we started kindergarten. We met in preschool at the Day Care Center of New Canaan on South Avenue.
I met a few others there that year that I am still in touch with today, 20 years later.
And while Brandon and some of those others stopped going there after preschool, I went there through the Afterschool program until the summer before seventh grade.
So I have a lot of memories there as well.
I would like to thank every staff member who worked there during those years, a handful of whom are still there today. I don’t know who I would be without their help during my crucial development stages, and I know that they are proud of the person that I am—as am I.
I am an only child. I remember when I first realized this (that I was not going to have a brother or sister) I became a little sad. Ever since, I’ve wanted to be a part of a big family.
So I was then told that I had cousins, and aunts and uncles too. There are two families of five, a family of four, and a family of two on my dad’s side and two uncles on my mom’s (one of whom, Todd, passed away in 2006). “That’s 18!” I remember thinking. 18 more family members! And the evenings we have shared, whether they’re holiday gatherings or birthday dinners have all been very fun.
But I only got to see them on said holidays and birthdays—and the family of four lived all the way out in St. Louis, so there are not many chances for them to come East. So even at a young age, I needed more. I wanted more. And thankfully, over time, I got more.
I mentioned Brandon a moment ago—well the Sorbara family is quite large. Brandon plus his five sisters, Amanda, Lexi, Ali, Sam and Carly, his brother Ryan and their parents (Sal and Shannon Sorbara, and Ann Marie Regonini-Cannon and Steve Cannon) welcomed me into their family.
And graciously, more families followed.
I would like to thank the Sorbara family; Thomas Mase and his family (Jim, Adele, Laura and James); Jackie Hull and her family (her mom Sue and brother Michael); Zach Swanson and his parents (Neil and Mary Jane); and Matt Moran and his parents (Mary and Brian).
This ‘Thank you’ is for letting me into your homes over these years, and your families. Your sons and daughters have become not just my closest friends, but my brothers and sisters as well.
As the old saying goes, “DNA doesn’t make a family. Love does.” That could not be truer than with all of you. I have shared many memories with all of you and look forward to continuing those as time goes on.
So no, I am not an only child. I actually have too many family members to count.
Now when you live in a town like New Canaan, it’s difficult to not take things for granted. Most families in this town are fortunate enough to be able to put food on the table every night, clothes on their bodies, have a bed to sleep in and a roof over their heads (a lot of very nice roofs actually). Whatever the biggest problem in a family is in New Canaan, it typically is not one of those.
Overall, I was no different.
However, I don’t think, as children, you become aware of all of this until you get older. I know it didn’t happen to me until I was about halfway through with high school—when I truly said to myself, “Wow! I got it pretty good.” I didn’t have all that I wanted, but I had everything I needed, and plenty more.
Somewhere along the way, when living in New Canaan (and I’ve shared this with most of my friends), you realize that you have it “pretty good.”
To the parents whose children have yet to realize this—the ones who don’t always appreciate the work you do to take care of all the necessities, or at the very least, have yet to appreciate it—I promise you that they will, whether you imprint in their minds or not; because we are very fortunate to live in such a town. I know I’m sure thankful.
What am I going to miss about New Canaan?
Well, almost everything. When you live in a place for 20 years, you basically know it like the back of your hand. But even though there isn’t much I haven’t seen here, I will nevertheless miss seeing it.
I will miss Mead Park. Thankfully, as a contributor for NewCanaanite.com this spring, I will not have to say goodbye to Mead just yet as I’ll be covering some Rams baseball games there.
But Mead means so much more than Rams baseball.
Living just a stone’s throw away, it’s a place that I have played so many baseball games. First playing on the fields of Mellick and Gamble as a little one, then playing on the big field as a Ram my senior year—then going back to Mellick and Gamble to coach for a couple summers while I was home from college.
I have spent many hours on those fields. I’ve also enjoyed my fair share of hot dogs, grilled cheeses, chicken fingers, and French fries from the food stands there. And for the past two years, have concluded my five-mile walks around town with a stroll through the park. Believe it or not, the park is just as beautiful when it’s just you and the retired man sitting in his car reading the paper as it is in the dead heat of summer when the kids are everywhere.
I will miss “The Neighborhood.” No not my neighborhood (though I will miss that too) but rather the neighborhood of Butler, Whiffle Tree, and Danvers Lanes. Three of the families I mentioned earlier (the Mases, Hulls and Swansons) all live in this area of town, and basically within 500 feet from each other. I couldn’t have asked to be more fortunate in the location of three of my closest friends’ homes. Then there are about five or six other families whose houses are in this area with children (now adults) I went to school and/or became friends with over the years (the Betacks, Balzanos, Faughnans, Harshbargers, Reillys, and the Tharps before they moved).
And that is why I call it “The Neighborhood.” Because it’s the only neighborhood in town where I know just about every family who lives there—or it at least feels like that.
Twenty years is a long time. Many people have come to and left New Canaan over those 20 years. But for most of those years, the families in “The Neighborhood” have been there—and I’ve spent a night or two or several in those homes with my friends/family, and I’ll never forget those moments. When I go on those five-mile walks, I make sure to go through “The Neighborhood” because of such feelings and memories.
I learned to ride a bike because of one of those families (the Hulls). At an age much later than most of my peers did. Not that my parents didn’t try, they did. But at the age I was at (21), I was much more willing to try with someone other than my parents, and Jackie and her mom were willing to help.
I made varsity baseball, in part, because of Thomas who convinced me to tryout after consecutive years of not making any team.
I started at second base one game, a position I hadn’t played since I was 14, because of Zach.
Those facts only begin what those three in “The Neighborhood” have done for me. And I look forward to adding to our memories together as we get older.
I will miss the schools. Going to South, Saxe and the High School I think is pretty cool. I mean, how many other towns have three different schools that are, practically, within 100 yards of each other? Not many I would presume. And while my most vivid memories come from high school, I still have several memories from both South and Saxe—specifically the teachers and fellow students I met along the way. It’s why on my walk through New Canaan I include walking by all three schools (or at least their signs) to remember my time at each one of them.
I will miss 124 Farm Road. That’s the house that my dad’s family lived in until it was sold in 2009. My Grammy lived in it all 43 years it was owned by the family. We shared many dinners together during those holidays and birthdays with my cousins, aunts and uncles. And while I got plenty of gifts there over my first 18 years on Earth, the greatest gift was the time spent with family. Whether it was playing pool or watching a movie in the den, or the games we would play in the backyard, it all was a thrill for me—because I was with family.
Safe to say I include a walk past there as well in the five miles. And I remember one great walk to there with my dad after my high school graduation in 2009. He who went to the high school (though not at its current location) while living at 124 Farm Rd., and I having just officially completed high school walking back to 124 Farm Rd. with him.
I could go on, but I would only be saying what is already evident.
That I’m going to miss home.
I remember very little from our two places in Norwalk before this. And while I have called Durham, NH my second home because of the four years I spent there at UNH, and the friends/family I made during that time—it’s exactly that, my second home.
New Canaan is my home. The only home I’ve ever known. It’s why I wanted to say goodbye like I have here. To let all of you know what my 20 years here means.
Spending 20 years in one place can lead a lot of people to ask, “What if?” It’s so easy to focus on what if this had happened or what if that went a different way.
However, I choose to focus on what is; and what is, is this:
Whether you know me personally or not; whether you know the Sauerhoffs or not. Fellow New Canaanites, you were our neighbors. You were our friends. You were this town.
And you still are.
Our move to Ridgefield only changes our address. It doesn’t put an end to what was built over the course of the past almost half century. Not in the least.
We appreciate those who have wished us well with this move and those who have been there with us every step of our journey here. We may not live in town at the conclusion of this month, but this town is inside us. And I look forward to the day when I’m driving with my wife and kids, whether we live in Connecticut or not, and taking them by our place on Park Street; through Mead Park; to all the schools; to “The Neighborhood”; through downtown; and by 124 Farm Road. My dad has done a similar thing every time we have gone down to Maryland, where he and his family moved from to New Canaan—and I will pass that on to my children and family too.
In closing, I want to share some words that I feel are relevant to this event in my life, and can be carried over to many different events or situations in yours.
They are, “Every song ends. But that is no reason not to enjoy the music.” And I have. Then, “Every ship must sail away.” But that is no reason not to look forward to where we go next. And I do.