Write Christmas

When Chris Cirri’s son Dominic was 2 or 3, before he could read or write, he would make drawings and place them in the flimsy, decorative cardboard mailbox that was pulled from storage every year after Thanksgiving. When Dominic turned his attention away from the mailbox, Cirri would remove the drawing. In other words, it was on its way to the North Pole. Dominic was mesmerized. “We’re the only ones,” Cirri would tell his son. “We have this magic mailbox.”

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Just five years later, thousands of homes now have their very own magic mailbox. And that number is growing. Cirri, of Wallingford, partnered up with industry leader Mr. Christmas and moved almost 10,000 units of his Santa’s Enchanted Mailbox last year, mostly through Amazon and mom-and-pop stores.

But over the summer, Cirri, with help from his stepfather-in-law Dave Seales, a former engineer, and brother-in-law Steve Signore, struck a deal with Walmart. This holiday season 130,000 exclusive versions of the mailbox — smaller and less expensive ($24.97) than the original ($40-$50) — will be on the shelves of 2,000 Walmarts across the country.

As a bonus, each mailbox comes with a copy of an original children’s Christmas story. “It’s actually a tale that’s based out of Wallingford, Connecticut,” Chris says. “We wanted to put Wallingford on the map with this.”

Filming in a Winter Wonderland

For many, Christmas movies are an integral part of the holiday season. Classics like Miracle on 34th Street and newer favorites like Elf show up on millions of TV screens every year. Our state has even been the setting for some of those films, Holiday Inn and Christmas in Connecticut to name a couple.

The latest Christmas movie with a Connecticut connection is Rediscovering Christmas, which will air on Lifetime on Dec. 15 at 8 p.m. It was shot in the state in late summer, wrapping in Hartford in mid-September on a fake-snow-lined Pratt Street. Norwich native Andrew Gernhard, co-founder of Rocky Hill-based Synthetic Cinema International, is the producer.

The plot is quintessential Christmas trope: Mia (Jessica Lowndes) is a window dresser at a Boston department store and can’t wait to get away to a tropical location for the holiday. But sister Sara (Justine Cotsonas) needs help putting on the Snowflake Festival in their rural Vermont hometown. Boston is depicted by the scenes shot in Hartford. And Vermont? Old Wethersfield of course.

Electric wheels

261 Connecticut residents responded to a survey conducted by Chicago-based consulting firm West Monroe about electric vehicles. Here are some of the results:

7 percent said they drove an electric car.

9 percent said it was “very likely” their next vehicle will be electric.

36 percent said it was “somewhat likely” their next vehicle would be electric.

52 percent said longer-lasting battery would incentivize them to buy or lease an electric car.

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In October, Connecticut issued a draft roadmap for widespread electric vehicle adoption. Below are some of the state’s goals and current car numbers.

500,000: The number of vehicles that will need to switch to an electric system by 2030 to meet the state’s economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets. (That's roughly one-third of all vehicles in the state today.)

Almost 40 percent: The percentage of greenhouse gases the transportation sector accounts for in the state.

Almost 70 percent: The percentage of smog pollution the transportation sector produces in the state.

Dog’s Best Friend

Military dogs were highlighted in late October after President Donald Trump tweeted a photo of Conan, a dog who had participated in the U.S. special operations raid that killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The contributions of this dog came as no surprise to Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who has long been a vocal supporter of military canines. A day before the president’s tweet, Blumenthal tweeted his support for that pooch, who was injured during the military action. “We must also recognize the brave service of military working dogs, who work honorably alongside our troops & played a key role in the raid against al-Baghdadi. They too are heroes,” Blumenthal wrote on Twitter.

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Conan the military dog: a very, very good boy

The Connecticut Mirror reports that “Military dogs save the lives of more than 100 U.S. troops every year. But when they were no longer able to perform their jobs, they were considered excess military equipment … and often left behind in a theater of war or overseas base.” As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Blumenthal has supported legislation that has helped ensure these dogs are brought home safely and continues to push for better treatment for dogs who serve in the military.

Selfie-centered

Never mind the great debate about why people are leaving Connecticut and where they’re going. Everywhere, they’re taking selfies with the political crowd. It’s the great unifier of 2019 ever since September, when Elizabeth Warren catapulted in the polls after 70,000 selfies. Her view: Why spend hours with the media and days with funders when every selfie multiplies itself on social media. In an age of acrimony across the aisle, the spread of these images civilizes us in an odd sort of way. In Greenwich, First Selectman-Elect Fred Camillo joined in the ritual after winning the seat. And Gov. Ned Lamont is a burgeoning master. Rob Blanchard, his body man and comms staffer, used to shoot pics of the gov with constituents. That was so early 2019 — now it’s mostly selfie time. “Less work for me,” Blanchard said after overseeing a victory in Middletown, where he’s the Democratic town chairman. Less for him, but more for us to follow as our friends post their political selfie conquests.

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Suspension, Kmart shoppers

The final remaining Kmart in Connecticut will be closing this month as the store on Straits Turnpike in Watertown will turn off the blue light for good in mid-December. Sears Holdings filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October 2018.

Kmart boasted 2,486 stores in 1994 and will be down to 115 by the end of 2019. The Watertown location was the lone Kmart in the state since stores in Vernon and Milford shut down in 2018.

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The Mayflower II in its home port in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Bon voyage, Mayflower II

After four years and an $11.2 million restoration project at Mystic Seaport Museum, the Mayflower II, a recreation of the famed Pilgrims’ ship, is back in the water. Originally built in the late 1950s, the ship has been wintering in Connecticut as it undergoes a major refit. This May it will leave the seaport and head home to Massachusetts, where it will be the centerpiece of celebrations commemorating the 400th anniversary of the original Mayflower’s arrival in the New World carrying the Pilgrims. We visited this vessel in 2015, shortly after it was docked in Mystic, and were impressed with the sense of history it conveyed.

This article appeared in the December 2019 issue of Connecticut Magazine. You can subscribe here, or find the current issue on sale hereSign up for our newsletter to get the latest and greatest content from Connecticut Magazine delivered right to your inbox. Got a question or comment? Email editor@connecticutmag.com, or contact us on Facebook @connecticutmagazine or Twitter @connecticutmag.

The senior writer at Connecticut Magazine, Erik is the co-author of Penguin Random House’s “The Good Vices” and author of “Buzzed” and “Gillette Castle.” He is also an adjunct professor at WCSU’s MFA Program and Quinnipiac University

Mike Wollschlager, editor and writer for Connecticut Magazine, was born and raised in Bristol and has lived in Farmington, Milford, Shelton and Wallingford. He was previously an assistant sports editor at the New Haven Register.