Tuesday 12th March 2019 – Redding CT
When I was planning my trip, I imagined that I might need a bit of space between my final event and going home to decompress and process what I had done. So I thought ending up in very rural Redding CT, where Harry and Florence had a place and Harry lived on and off in his life would be a good choice.
Having been away from home for pretty much 9 weeks, visited 18 countries, met with over 400 wonderful strangers i.e. alumni, from 7 different I-Houses and connected with even more over the multiple digital channels, taken 26 flights travelling over 34,000 miles, I think this was a good piece of forward planning.
It has not sunk in that I did ‘it’ yet. I met my goal of meeting at least one alumni in each destination and overall surpassed my expectations many times.
So it was that on my birthday, after a short and very lovely coffee with the I-House NYC Development and Alumni team of Julie Pape and Emily Wakeling, that Chris my partner took a happy but tired and somewhat emotional me off to find a hire car and drove me out of town.
Stopping for a very delicious birthday lunch at L’Escale in Greenwich, we then headed north to Redding CT. It is a tiny town close to some very pretty reservoirs which were still largely frozen. We were staying above a Yoga centre in the woods, I am not quite sure how we would have reached it in fresh snow, but as the weather gods have been pretty much with me all the way, we had beautiful ornamental rather than hazardous snow. The only noises as we stood in the woods were the running of a small river, the gentle crackle and drip of melting snow and the slight russell of the tree branches in the breeze. Perfect for a pause.
Sandy Edmonds, Harry ‘s granddaughter, who had joined me in Beirut, grew up in Redding in the house that Florence’s parents bought. Built in 1783 it sits on the green by the First Church of Christ Congregational. With Sandy’s encouragement via WhatsApp from Vermont, we broke all British reserve and knocked on the door. The rather surprised Associate Minister who lives there, Jane Moran, very kindly showed us around. The house has been very lovingly restored keeping the wonderful polished wooden plank floor, hand cut beams, as well as the fireplace which is huge, as it was used for cooking over and still has the original bread oven to the right hand side of it.
Also on Sandy’s suggestion we headed off to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, which is near Tarrytown NY, to find Harry and Florence’s graves. As well as being the subject of a Hollywood film about a headless horseman, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery is the burial ground for many famous people. I have been told that J.D. Rockefeller paid for Florence to be buried there in 1933. It is close to his country home at Kykuit.
Finding a grave on the site is not an easy thing, but with the help of multiple maps from the office we negotiated the many small roads to the right spot. Harry and two of his wives, Florence and Marie are buried together, however only Harry has a stone, which has “That brotherhood may prevail” inscribed on it.
I had a short ‘chat’ with Harry, thanking him from everyone I have met and all those I have not, who have ever lived at the Houses for putting his idea into action and transforming lives. I looked around at the snowy graves and thought his was certainly a life well lived. He was 96 when he died and his legacy lives on. I wondered if I will do enough that my great grandchildren will come looking for my legacy.
It seemed a good place to end my trip and begin what ever comes next. I am convinced that the International House idea is as relevant now as it ever has been and that the original Houses need to keep flourishing.
The light needs to keep being passed on, so this is not the end but a beginning too. I don’t know exactly what happens next but although I will have to get some gainful employment again, I will be continuing to tell Harry’s story and celebrating the residents who have passed through the Houses.
There is some finishing off of this trip to be done when I get home to England and reflections on travelling the world to share.
I know I will see many of those I have met again and who knows what ripples are yet to happen as a result of our meeting, that is the exciting part.
Where we ate:
L’Escale in Greenwich http://lescalerestaurant.com
Main Street Sweets (Family Run Ice Cream shop) in Tarrytown – https://www.tarrytownicecream.com