23 Years At 5 Viking Green

Matt Yemma

Matt Yemma moved to Westport in elementary school. He graduated from Staples High School in 2002. He ran cross country and indoor and outdoor track, and was inspired by English teachers like Gerry Kuroghlian and Todd Kalif. 

He majored in writing at the University of Redlands. Yemma is currently the founder and managing partner of Endeavor Communications, a public relations consulting firm specializing in financial and legal services clients. He writes:

“Come on Reggie. Let’s play football in the living room!” I remember saying.

It was the first night we were staying in the Westport house, in the fall of 1995. We had just moved from Evanston, outside of Chicago, where we had a nice house, but nothing quite as big as our new Westport house – and with no furniture yet in the house it felt cavernous. I found a football somewhere amongst our luggage and bribed my 8-year-old sister into a game in the living room. We thought we were in trouble when our father stumbled upon our game, but luckily, he just smiled and joined in.

That same cavernous living room, with the high vaulted ceilings and the large fireplace set in granite, would soon be filled with rugs and furniture and family pictures and happy memories. That living room saw more than its share of Chrismukkah dinners, nights decorating the Christmas tree – and also lighting the menorah because we are a multicultural family.

5 Viking Green

Plus birthday parties, family celebrations, bar and bat Mitzvah brunches, dinner parties, nights hanging by the fire with the dogs and friends, Staples pasta dinners, countless high school and college parties, even Reggie’s engagement party just a few years ago.

Over 23 years, that house shared in our happiness and our heartbreak – like when we sat shiva after our grandmother passed away in 2010, or when we celebrated when I got into the college I so desperately wanted to get into in 2002. Or when I returned home after losing my job during the financial crisis, feeling heartbroken, only to start my own business out of the basement of that house.

Probably the best feature of 5 Viking Green is the back deck. A 2-tiered outdoor wood deck overlooks the river and forest. In the warmer months the gurgle of the river and the sounds of the birds in the trees make it an excellent place to grill something delicious and get a fire going in the chimney.

The great deck

The forest is always full of life – deer, ducks and great blue herons in the river. An endless supply of chipmunks and squirrels kept the dogs entertained. We often joked about the ongoing war between the dogs and chipmunks. Let’s just say the chipmunk population took a hit every spring and summer.

Best of all was the family of Cooper’s hawks that ruled the trees in that forest. They’d occasionally land on the deck. or closer to the house. One summer we had a young family nesting somewhere near the house. We’d often sight the parents and babies diving down after a rabbit or smaller bird. Wild turkeys were also a common sight, funnily enough usually around Thanksgiving.

Nature, seen from 5 Viking Green.

That deck knows more of my secrets than it probably should. Like the time friends and I set off 4th of July fireworks from there, and nearly set it on fire. Or the time during a lifeguard party I jumped off the side of the deck to avoid being hit with a water balloon, and luckily just sprained my knee.

Or the time we sat on the deck discussing our grandmother’s funeral, or my parents’ plans to move on from the house, or when I broke up with a girlfriend and felt my heart shatter into a million little pieces. Thankfully, that deck always knew how to help heal broken hearts.

As we pack up the house now that it’s sold, I almost feel a constant video montage of all my memories at 5 Viking Green playing in my head. My parents have mixed feelings, they say – good memories but time to move on to their third act. They are trading the big Westport house for a 2-bedroom metro-chic apartment in downtown Denver.

All of us will miss this house. We’ll miss the late-night summer basketball we played in the driveway under the lights, and martinis on the deck and big roaring fires during blizzards. But we’ll cherish our memories, knowing that a family with young children starts a new act at 5 Viking Green.

Matt Yemma (2nd from left) and his family (from left): Andy, Melanie, Reggie and Eileen Ogintz. 

15 responses to “23 Years At 5 Viking Green

  1. Roberta Tager

    Beautiful story!🎈🎈🎈

    Sent from my iPhone Bobbi

    >

  2. Tom Duquette, SHS '75

    I feel your pain, but just wait until the day when you see the old homestead featured as the Westport Now’s ‘Teardown of the Day’. That’s a real gut punch. Savor the memories.

  3. Elaine Marino

    “Thankfully, that deck always knew how to help heal broken hearts.”

    What a touching story. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Fred Cantor

    A well-told story that strikes a chord for many of us. (Plus, I learned a new street/location in Westport. I had never heard of Viking Green and, after looking it up on the map, I’m almost positive I never drove by it.)

  5. Unfortunately, there is almost no chance that house survives the wrecking ball.

  6. Bill Boyd (Staples '66)

    Wonderful remembrance….especially the nature references….

  7. Bart Shuldman

    Beautifully written but a sad indication of what is going on in CT everyday. People leaving-moving from CT.

    Latest statistic, CT was the 4th top State in the US for people leaving and moving out.

    • Steve Stein

      Hi Bart

      You make it sound terrible living in CT- fourth on a list of folks leaving. Could you be insinuating our politicians are driving folks out!!

      Yet- Most of the people I know just move to warmer retirement states – as in warmer climate- to play outside all year round and to get away from the winter snow. And many of those warmer states also happen to be lower tax states with fewer state services and lousy schools systems.

      So I looked up the list-

      “The states that are losing people as they move away are almost exclusively in the Northeast or the Rust Belt. The “moving out” states, according to the survey:

      Illinois
      New Jersey
      New York
      Connecticut
      Kansas
      Massachusetts
      Ohio
      Kentucky
      Utah
      Wisconsin

      (Kansas and Utah are the notable exceptions.)

      Among the major reasons for the migrations are economic ones. According to Michael Stoll, economist and professor in the Department of Public Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles:

      This year’s data reflects longer-term trends of movement to the western and southern states, especially to those where housing costs are relatively lower, climates are more temperate and job growth has been at or above the national average, among other factors. We’re also seeing continued migration to the Pacific Northwest and Mountain West as young professionals and retirees leave California.”

      So I would surmise that the first thing we need to legislate is warmer weather in the Northeast. In addition we have to demand less state aid to programs for the young and old (education and services), lower pay to all teachers and state workers (the guys who plow our roads and look after the state parks), lower state income tax (which is already being stabilized by shifting more educational costs to the towns and possibly instituting tolls on major state highways) as well as demanding lower inheritance taxes (which has already been legislated to happen fully to the federal level by 2020).

      Things are never as simple as they first appear. Just a few more thoughts to ponder.

      • Bart Shuldman

        Steve-do you see any correlation regarding people leaving high tax states to low or no tax states? Any?

        Many I speak to struggle with their decision to leave CT as they move away from their families.

        I appreciate you support high taxes and the see no issue inside CT with the budget crisis. I also appreciate you seem to not have an issue with dropping home prices in Westport as many look to leave and not many are moving into CT (as the report clearly shows). I get it. Read your posts and understand your position.

        Don’t worry-higher taxes are coming. And so is warmer weather.

      • Bart Shuldman

        By the way-Governor Malloy has met and enacted many of the items in your post. The governor with support of Rep Steinberg have:

        1) cut education spending to towns and cities in CT
        2) cut PILOT payments to towns and cities
        3) cut state funding for social programs for the needy (yes a democratic governor cut spending for needy social programs)

        Steve-just think about it-a Democratic Governor with a democratic legislature cut education spending and spending for the needy, just to continue the over-the-top benefits for state workers. Take away education and social program spending and give it away to the state worker. Just the facts.

        Over 80% of the CT General Fund is now spent on state worker salaries, pension and medical benefits and state debt. And, by the way, CT just maxed out on the state’s credit card-no more borrowing capacity. You probably know Governor Malloy and the Treasurer took over the City of Hartford debt which maxed out the state’s borrowing.

        Just some of the reasons why people are fleeing CT. The state is doing exactly what you want.

        All my best.

    • Andy Yemma

      so thanks again Bart S for hijacking comments with your Grover Norquist screeds.

      • Bart Shuldman

        Andy-are insults the only way to respond? Does it make you feel better? Do you have a problem trying to open a dialogue about a known problem?

        Jeesh

  8. Steve Stein

    By the way the states with the most folks moving to them are-
    1 Vermont
    2 Oregon
    3 Idaho
    4 Nevada
    5 South Dakota
    6 Washington
    7 South Carolina
    8 North Carolina
    9 Colorado
    10 Alabama

    I honestly can say I wouldn’t leave Connecticut for any of them- unless all our kids and grandkids moved far away from Connecticut.

    From Matt’s article it was great to hear that all the Yemma kids benefited from the Westport and Staples experiences and are so fond of the memories of living in a great house on Viking Green- much as our kids would feel about their home and their street .

  9. Gerry Kuroghlian

    Well written piece. I’m quite proud of you.

  10. Geralyn Breig

    Beautiful story, touched my heart. Beautiful home, around the corner from our home of 20 years. Our “kids” have made us swear never to leave so they can always come back to our home on the West Branch of the Saugatuck. It is a special neighborhood indeed.