I was 12 when I first heard quarantine used in a conversation.

Aunt Ann and Uncle Ed Webb lived all the way up in Waterford, Connecticut, and raised their son, Wade there when I was a boy. They came home to Texas to visit relatives once every year or two.

On one of their visits to Bowie County, it was suggested that I could go visit them some day. A few months later, my parents drove me to DFW International Airport and put me on a plane for a 12-day visit. This was back when you could buy a kid a plane ticket and send him off into the world. The captain even let my parents board the plane to give hugs and kisses goodbye before they closed the doors.

Ann is my Daddy’s oldest sister, the oldest Haldeman child of the six who were raised on West 9th St. in Texarkana, Texas. She was 7 when Daddy came along. She told the story of when Daddy could barely talk, he asked sister, “My Aineee, my Aineee, won’t you make me some bisikitts.”

She and Uncle Ed really took a special interest in me through the years. They made me feel really special among all the nieces and nephews. That 12-day visit to their New England world was a testament to that treatment.

Not long after arriving in Connecticut, Ed announced that we would make a drive over to New York State to visit with a childhood friend of his who was on a business trip in the area. His friend was from Camp Wood, Texas.

Carol Vernor and his wife made the trip to Newburgh, New York to take possession of a flock of exotic birds of some type. I can’t remember which. Maybe they were ostriches or emus. Newburgh is on the Hudson River, around 80 miles from New York City and just up the river from West Point. That’s where the USDA Animal Import Center is located. Those birds had to be quarantined for a time before Carol could take them back home to Texas. There’s that word.

The Vernors and the Webbs had a great reunion and joined us for a tour of the U.S. Military Academy before we parted ways. I never got to see those birds because of the strange (to me) practice of them being quarantined. That’s to make sure the birds didn’t bring any strange diseases with them when they were released into the pens of the Vernor place back in Camp Wood.

It was a small but memorable visit during that trip. Aunt Ann and Uncle Ed opened a window to the world for me. A visit to New York City, Yale, the Atlantic Ocean, Gillette’s Castle, and so many other experiences in such a short time. I had my first taste of lobster in Westerly, Rhode Island. A first street side hot dog on a Manhattan sidewalk. My only experience with fried dough in Mystic, Connecticut.

The New England experience was a long time ago. Every time I hear or see the word ‘quarantine’ though, I remember it all.