It’s about four miles from Mystic to Stonington. Four very long miles over a sizable hill. I visited Stonington briefly the last time I was in Connecticut and knew I wanted to go back during my summer trip to Mystic. Without a car I had to rent a bike, which I did. The Mystic Community Bike Center gave me a rusted bike and a silly green helmet that looked like an extraterrestrial pod landed on my head. I was set to go.
Stonington is a charming little borough, but there’s not too much to see except for charming little houses. After a couple of hours of wandering I had my fill of old lighthouses and over-priced shops and decided to head back to the Inn at Mystic (well, really its pool).
I jumped on the bike, heard one of those “chunk” noises you never want to hear, and scraped the back of my leg on the pedal in a way I knew meant I wouldn’t be swimming in the hotel pool that day. I looked down to see what was wrong and the chain had fallen off the round chain thing (yes, clearly I know about bikes.)
So there I was, somewhere in Stonington with a broken chain and a bleeding ankle, wondering if I was going to have to walk four miles back to Mystic in 95 degree heat.
Then I learned my guardian angel was a nine-year-old boy. He came running out from behind his house, calling out if I was alright. I think I started blubbering about the bike and my ankle and something about the chain and the pedal. He just reached down, put the chain back in its place, and said: “Happens to my bike all the time.” Of course it does.
He stood in the driveway and made me bike around the street until he was sure all was well, and sent me off with a bit of nine-year-old wisdom: “Don’t you know? When you need help you only have to ask for it.”
I will now always have a special place in my heart for Stonington and a kid who was willing to help a stranger in a stupid green helmet with questionable biking abilities. I wonder if he knew he was my hero for the day.
On a side note, Stonington is also notable for having been the home of poet James Ingram Merrill. His house is now used for a writer-in-residence program. You can read more about the program and Mr. Merrill’s ties to Stonington here.