Jo Ann Jaacks: Getting to know you

A bouquet of flowers

A bouquet of flowers

Jo Ann Jaacks /

After living in my new apartment for a couple months, I decided to have a get-together with friends and my next-door neighbors. When I first moved to Litchfield 21 years ago, I did the same thing — invited my Connecticut relatives and the previous tenants to our new home with an open house. And when we downsized to a smaller house in Northfield, I invited family and church members and everyone on our road for a revolving open house. It’s an easy way to get to know people in your new surroundings and fun to throw a party.

I knew two of my neighbors from chatting when we saw each other in the shared parking spot and the third one from a surprise meet-up at the same place at the same time when she showed up waving at me. It turns out she was one of the Friends of Topsmead and was there to observe the filming of the ballet I was there to cover as a story. After chatting and waiting five hours in 41 degrees rainy weather for filming to begin at the outdoor venue, we bonded in commiseration.

Some of my friends and I had begun a casual drinks and snacks gathering on Wednesday afternoons, so I decided to invite my neighbors to the next one since we all are freelancers of some kind. It was a larger crowd now, so I decided to “buy local” and got flying pig wings from Litchfield Locker and the Ripe Tomato, baked goodies from the Bakehouse, sweets from Litchfield Candy Co., and drink choices from the Village Wine Cellar. My guests also contributed to the picnic and we set up tables on the front lawn to enjoy the beautiful sunny day. The peonies had just bloomed and my friend put together two bouquets.

As so often happens when you meet new people, the more you talk, the more you realize you have in common. Soon, we were sharing stories, even personal and very sad stories, discovering that two in the group had lost a child, and others were the caretakers of their significant others. There is a security and support in a group that allows for freedom of discussion, knowing that you will be understood, and that joy can follow. That is the whole point of a Happy Hour Picnic.