Welcome to the Chubby Chatterbox Newsletter, where I’ll be posting favorites from the Chubby Chatterbox archives. In addition, my complete thriller Return of the Mary Celeste will soon be serialized here for those who have asked for something beyond a regular post.

My novel is based on a true event, arguably the greatest maritime mystery of all time. In 1872 the crew and passengers of Boston brigantine Mary Celeste abandoned their seaworthy ship and its valuable cargo, vanishing in the middle of the Atlantic. Speculation over their fate has never abated. History records that after the Mary Celeste tragedy no one from that fateful voyage was ever seen again. History is about to be rewritten…

Return of the Mary Celeste

Prologue

Tragedy struck the brigantine Mary Celeste on the morning of November 25, 1872. The hourly log was later recovered from the deserted vessel; At 8 a.m. the last notation was made. By 9 a.m. no one remained aboard to chalk the next entry.

Something had terrified Captain Benjamin Briggs and his crew, prompting the seasoned skipper to make a decision certain to affect not only himself, his ship and crew, but his family as well—his wife and two year old daughter were aboard Mary Celeste. Much ink has been spilled in fanciful and scientific attempts to explain the calamity that engulfed this perfectly seaworthy ship, yet all that is known for certain is this: in a matter of minutes Captain Briggs became convinced that the only way to save their lives was by ordering everyone into a hastily launched lifeboat. By giving the order to abandon ship, he also launched the greatest of all maritime mysteries.

On December 5, 1872, a month after leaving New York Harbor, Mary Celeste was found drifting on a calm and empty sea. The ship was in fine condition, perfectly intact with valuable cargo safely stored in her hold, but the crew and passengers had vanished. None were ever seen again.

Until now….

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Memory Lane

March 30, 2015

Does anyone ever plan on growing old? I know I didn’t. When mature enough to start reflecting on the voyage of my life, I was surprised to find out how little documentation there was that I’d ever existed.

           

A popular blog meme is “Throwback Thursdays,” where folks post vintage pictures of themselves. I’ve never participated in this because there are precious few pictures of me. Being the second and last child, my parents were not inclined to snap pictures of me, although there are many of my older brother David. Truth be told, as I grew older I wasn’t particularly pleased with my appearance and moved into the shadows whenever a camera made an appearance. Years later, this would be in stark contrast with our son CJ, who’d announce his intention to do something cute by yelling, “Got any film?”

           

Recently, I was contacted by old friends, next door neighbors from Killarney Park, the location for most of my childhood stories. Linda and Becky were going to be passing through Portland and wanted to pay Mrs. Chatterbox and me a visit. We spent a pleasant evening, and it was fun rekindling with people I hadn’t seen in nearly half a century. Physically, they hadn’t changed much, but I was surprised to hear such adult-ish voices, especially Linda’s. Now divorced, she’s spent the past thirty years in Missouri and has a rich twangy accent. I learned the sisters have been following my blog, remembering many of the situations prompting my stories, and they were especially grateful for the piece I post on Memorial Day as a tribute to their older brother Darwin, a Navy pilot lost in Vietnam. I was pleased to hear that after fifty years the wreckage of Darwin’s plane has finally been discovered in a remote jungle, but an exploration of the site has been called off this year because of remoteness and the arrival of the rainy season. Still, hope now exists that Darwin’s remains will one day be returned to the States, to be interred with those of his parents who have since passed away.

           

Even as a child I realized my mother never enjoyed living in Killarney Park, and had always set her sights on something grander. We were among the first of the original families to move away. The Thomases, along with the Delgados, stayed for many more years.

           

While cleaning out their old Killarney Park residence after their mother recently passed away, Linda and Becky discovered these two pictures. Linda and I are the same age and look like a little married couple. We’re almost holding hands. In one of the images you can see Linda’s mom Wilma in the window reflection, taking our picture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

With a candy-apple head, rolled cuffs and pants pulled high like those of a miniature Fred Mertz, I was quite a little goober. Linda is wearing Mary Janes and a cute dress, and carrying a new lunchbox, prompting me to think this might be the first day of kindergarten (1956-57) even though I don’t recall ever being sent off to school in a T-shirt.

           

In my mind’s eye, the neighborhood was a terribly big place, but the houses in the background look tiny and flimsy. Although it’s often beneficial to be reminded of where you came from, I prefer to remember Killarney Park as a vast place, a wonderfully big canvas on which I’ve painted the stories of my childhood. 

 

 

 

 

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Comments

25 Comments
You were/are every inch a cutie, Stephen! Lately, we've been discovering lots of old photos -- especially of my mother, that we'd never seen before. Quite a wonderful discovery for us!
By: The Broad on March 30, 2015
I think most of us guys looked like dorks when we were young. Many of us never outgrew it. Sometimes it's better to remember than see old stomping grounds again. I moved many times as a kid, but I've been back to two of the places we lived, and I hardly recognize them.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on March 30, 2015
I think that is so cute and I love what you wrote. My attachment to my childhood neighborhood is legendary, ha ha. But when I return, I can't get in touch with the place I remember. Every childhood memory is larger than life. I'm thankful for that.
By: Cherdo on March 30, 2015
How absolutely enchanting that you got to catch up with childhood friends. You are a lucky fella Chatterox
By: Oma Linda on March 30, 2015
What a lovely memory. Those two children are absolutely sweet. I just want to hug and kiss them. What a wonderful and innocent time. Gives you a bit of perspective, I hope.
By: Tabor on March 30, 2015
That looks like a fun visit, especially with finding the old photos.
By: cranky on March 30, 2015
Well, i don't think you look like a goober. And i don't blame you for hiding from cameras, i do, too.
By: mimi on March 30, 2015
Aww, you were a little cutie- how neat that your friends have brought back to you a photo of your childhood! ( I hate cameras, also..more so now then when growing up.)
By: Terri @ Coloring Outside the Lines on March 30, 2015
Hi, you cute thing, you-!! Religion changes, too--the synagogue in my old neighborhood is now a Holy Rollers church & my husband used to play in the cornfields that are now the Los Angeles Mormon Temple.
By: fishducky on March 30, 2015
oh, my gosh! you're both adorable!!!! :)
By: TexWisGirl on March 30, 2015
The lack of pictures has cheated us all. You were quite a handsome young lad. And I love those James Dean rolled cuff trousers. : )
By: Catalyst on March 30, 2015
My goodness, you two look like adorable siblings. You did have those pants pulled pretty high though:) It is neat to meet up with childhood friends after so many years. It is amazing how comfortable we feel with each other.
By: Akansas Patti on March 30, 2015
This would be a good reminder of good old days and what went on in the neighborhood. first day of school photos were a big deal.
By: red on March 30, 2015
It is striking how much smaller people and places are when we look at them through adult eyes. These photos are as precious as the memories. You're adorable, and Linda has a very mature look for a young girl.
By: Robyn Engel on March 30, 2015
You both were adorable!!!
By: The Bug on March 30, 2015
That's precious! Maybe you were showing off your socks. Do I detect a hint of argyle?
By: Val on March 30, 2015
What a treasure, to come into possession of these old photos! You both looked very cute. My parents were poor farmers and never had a camera, but I had an uncle from the city (hot stuff, you know) and he was a decent photographers, even using color film in the early 60's. When my cousin (his daughter) came to visit me here in the States a number of years ago, I ended up with a nice little stack of "throwback" pictures.
By: Pixel Peeper on March 30, 2015
How great to get a childhood picture at this stage of the game ... and you're selling yourself short - you and the little lady are quite the cute kids.
By: jenny_0 on March 30, 2015
The pictures brought a smile to my face. Adorable and so "period." Too bad you look at the photos and still see yourself as quite a little goober. I see an adorable little boy (and there's no way you went to school in a T-shirt in the '50s).
By: Mitchell is Moving on March 31, 2015
I've driven by the house I was born into (we moved when I was 7ish I think) on occasion but it had been many years since I had done that. I happened to be in the area recently and decided to drive by one more time. the house is no longer there, the entire neighborhood scoured away and replaced with McMansions. not only that, they have renamed all the streets so I couldn't even find the old block.
By: Ellen Abbott on March 31, 2015
Methinks you looked like you might be wanting to be up to no good in those pictures.
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on March 31, 2015
So poignant, great photos too.
By: John on April 1, 2015
You look quite happy. I guess somebody forgot to tell you you were supposed to be less that satisfied with where you lived. Good! Keep smiling. :)
By: Scott Park on April 1, 2015
awww you were such a cutie!
By: Kathe W. on April 1, 2015
Reality Strikes Back... a new reality TV show.
By: Daniel LaFrance on April 1, 2015

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