Gustav and I recently spent some time back in my wee little hometown of Barre, Massachusetts. As we drove to my parent's home, I marveled, mouth agape, at how GREEN everything was. I mean, it looked like AstroTurf to me. Really.
I guess I have been in the Land of Brown for too long a time now to have forgotten how lush this little pocket of Earth is.
This was the longest I had ever been away from my hometown. Just shy of three years. My parents, being the stalwart and steady New Englanders that they are, still live in the same little house I grew up in. The bedrooms are still known as Beth's room and Mike's room, despite the fact that Beth and Mike haven't lived there in over fifteen years. The basement smells of earth and moisture and my grandmother, dead so long now.
My hometown is small. Full of names and places that have been there, in some cases, for hundreds of years. Drawn to Barre as a young man to work in the wool mill, my father's father planted roots, married, and had two boys. There have been Cranstons living there ever since.
There is a simplicity in small town living that I find charming and that I miss very much. Familiar landmarks. Familiar faces. Last names that you recognize. And, oh, the green. It just rolls and waves and soaks up the sun. Lush fields. Stately forests. Everywhere.
Here are the fields in which more than one inflatable sled met its sad end on Mr. Steven's barbed wire, somehow sparing the rider every time. Where walks through the tall grass revealed the adventurer's course in the trodden path left behind. Fields to cross in order to find the sparkling lake hidden behind the trees, and the playhouse hammered together by someone else's children a generation before. "We promise not to scare the cows," we would tell Mr. Stevens, who always seemed to be smiling. Of course, he told tales that made us fear these slow-moving cud-chewers, so that if one even looked in our direction we high-tailed it out of there, thankful to be alive.
This small town where aged signs warn passers-by of children long since grown with children of their own now. I wonder how long that sign has been propped against that tree? We used to joke that the sign was letting all know just how "slow" we all were.
Fences laced with poison ivy, easily scaled by brown, calloused hands on lazy summer days. The same rails hammered on generations ago, by rougher and more calloused hands that ours. But with the same surname as the farmer who lives there now. This farm, perched so perfectly and serenely on this hilltop since 1774, always in this family. While hands constructed this rugged old house, a defiant Continental Congress was meeting 200 miles away. Such rich history.
There is nothing like that warm late-afternoon sun streaming through the lush canopy, casting long shadows which beckon home.
We spent time on the town common, where a farmer's co-op was in full swing; farmers undaunted by the trifling fact that it was too early in the season to have grown anything here in New England. They sat around and chit-chatted about this family and that. Gossip, some might call it. A way to pass the time, others may say.
We parked in the old town library parking lot to steal some WiFi. Because it was not during the 4 hours that the library was open that day, and well, my parents don't own a computer. And with no Starbucks anywhere near, it sufficed.
I didn't realize how much I missed Barre until I was back there, visiting with family and old friends like it was yesterday, when I was a skinny little girl climbing fences and picking wildflowers and riding my "Blue Angel" bike with the banana seat down Steven's hill with no hands. The days of jumping huge rolled hay bales, and fishing derbies, and drinking Shirley Temples, and walks down the old cart path to the cemetery with crooked gravestones and dates in the 1700's. When things moved slowly and life was simple.
You know, there really is no place like home.