Saturday, February 14, 2009

Love Letter

For Valentine's Day, I'd like to share a column that I wrote for the Middletown Press back in the Fall of 1997 (it's minus a ripped corner of the clipping...that paragraph is lost to history.)

It's a love letter to Middletown -- past, present and future.

When I wrote it, I had three children, ages 5, 3 and six months, and my husband and I had just moved to an old house just off Main Street. Kidcity was still a year away from opening.

Much time has passed: Kidcity has now passed its tenth birthday, and we're about to start looking at colleges for my tall, long-haired MHS junior, but I can't think of anything in this column that I don't feel just as strongly as I did that day:

From "Mainly Main Street"

One of the wonderful things about Middletown is the collective memory that longtime residents have of a thriving Main Street and vibrant community life.

I've heard it expressed hundreds of ways: remembering the taste of a sandwich from one of those long-gone South End delicatessens, catching a 2 a.m. breakfast at O'Rourke's Diner, shopping for a new Fall coat at Bunce's, or growing up on Center Street. It couldn't have been just the recipes or places that make those memories special -- I think it must have been the feeling that you were known in your own town, that even if there were several different Middletowns, they all met on Main Street.

When I came here 14 years ago, I felt those restless ghosts moving up and down Main Street and it made me want to stay...

...I still often have what I've come to call a "Middletown Moment." It's when, after living here for months, years, or decades, you try for the first time a Vecchitto's Lemon Ice, or find your way to Harriet Amanda Chapman's or step into the garden behind Main Street's Mansfield House. It's when you say "I can't believe this was here all along."

We need to sing our own praises, and pull each other to our favorite spots and treasures. Did you know there is a book art studio in town? Has every parent taken their kid to our incredible children's library? Have you seen the view from CVH?

I've put down roots here, and we're raising a family -- I'm looking at Middletown and thinking of the kind of place that I want my kids to come from. I want to see neighborhoods where old houses are cherished and people use their front porches; I want to see families riding their bikes along our beautiful riverfront; I want to see the old and the new get all mixed up with each other on our Main Street. I want my kids to know that it matters what kind of people they become, because the community is watching them grow. That happens when the crossing guard and the person who sells us newspapers learn our faces, as an imperceptible web ties them and us together every day.

I've been busy, the last couple of years, with lots of other people working to open the Kidcity Children's Museum; we're going to make it a place that reminds us what's special and fun about Middletown, and gives families a second living room where they can meet and weave that web of community. I hope it will be a place where my kids and yours make memories together.

Our natural resources are what makes us special -- our river, our Main Street, the university, and our people. Nowhere else is like here, and if we could first bring ourselves to appreciate all that's here, I think we'd be mobbed by tourists looking for a place that feels like home.

So it's back to 2009 -- and there are so many of us that love Middletown and want to be here with all our hearts -- celebrate that and have a Happy Valentine's Day.


Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the Valentine.....I too love Middletown past and present.

Anonymous said...

Now I know there is someone just as sappy as me in town!

Anonymous said...

Well said, Jen. I agree completely.
My kids are 15, 13, and 10 and I came here for the same reasons you mentioned. Also..I could NOT have survived their young years without Kidcity!! We LIVED in the Farm Room!! Thank YOU for all you do for Middletown....

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the beautiful sentiment. I am right there with you.!