Every time I think that the world as I have known it is fading right before my eyes, something happens that reassures me that I’m in a premature panic.
Yes, so much of my world seems to have changed into a blurry vision of hurried movement, busy schedules and a “no time to stop for a breath” kind of existence and I often pine for “the old days.” In my case, that would be defined by words such as neighborhood, family interaction, leisurely summer days and knowing everyone who lived on the block and beyond. Yes, we actually knew everyone’s family name and usually the individual members as well. Even in a city neighborhood, we all knew each other and cared what happened to others. For kids, summers were meant to be spent outdoors and most summer nights were spent trying to catch a breeze on a front porch or a stoop.
So much of that seems to have been traded for text messages with cryptic notations for words. Families live on streets with houses that seem unoccupied because no one ever seems to spend time outside, and we all drive our cars right into the garage so that we don’t have meet our neighbor’s eyes or even exchange a friendly sign of acknowledgment.
We all know that there are so many reasons why that happened, why we’re all too busy to stop even for a few minutes. Work has become more stressful, and life’s complicated demands keep us from even thinking about losing focus.
I recently asked a child what he was going to be doing now that school is out. He rattled off a litany of activities that were planned from day camp to organized sports activities, to summer reading and on and on. On the one hand, I was impressed that he was going to not be just watching TV or playing video games, but I couldn’t help but think how nice it might be to just hang out in the neighborhood with the kids who live next door.
I know how old all this makes me look; wishing for times long past and making everything seem better than it actually was. It is a sign of age, I know, I know.
But, back to how things can happen that make you think the world is still not all that changed. On June 29, the Branford Arts Alliance hosted an event to celebrate Branford’s 375th anniversary. We decided to secure the armory, an iconic brick structure that has been closed to the public for almost 20 years, as the venue for an historically themed show.
There were some who warned that these kinds of “let’s look back” events are no longer in favor. “You need to have stuff happening or people will be bored” we were admonished. No one cares about the past anymore.
But we persevered in our plan to gather material that represented our local history. Photographs and artifacts from the historical archives were melded with informational presentations that gave us an opportunity to see how life was here. We discovered, for instance, that during the early decades of the 20th century, Branford was the strawberry growing center of New England, distributing the berries throughout the northeast.
Much to our amazement, the crowds of residents never ceased through the day. More importantly, people stopped to talk with each other or reminisce about something that they had forgotten from their childhood. What a wonderful thing it was to observe all this interaction and friendly banter. What a wonderful thing it was to notice some people lingering over something that moved them emotionally. My heart was warmed and I had, even if for just a brief time, a moment of encouragement that all is not lost; the world I knew hasn’t totally disappeared.