Some people say life is made of moments. Others contend that it’s made of choices. I believe life is made of stories – the stories we hear, the stories we tell, and the stories that roll around in our heads but never pass our lips.
Everyone has a story. Every place has a story. Even things have stories.
Small towns have stories with roots. The older generations pass their stories down, telling and retelling them at every family gathering until they are firmly ingrained in the minds and hearts of everyone present.
We all groan in good humor as aged uncles and venerable matriarchs trot out well-worn yarns, regaling anyone who’ll listen with tales about the old days (the good ones and the not so good ones), the way things were (and will never be again), and adventures of questionable accuracy.
These narratives slip into our subconscious. We take them for granted, but they are – like it or not – the very foundations of who we are.
Because I’ve lived here almost my entire life, I see the gilt shadows of my own stories all around town.
Walking through the recent art show at Town Hall, I remembered when the building was a middle school and Darren McKee and Cindy Jodrie tore up the floor to Thomas Dolby’s She Blinded Me with Science at our sixth grade dance. Descending the granite steps of the Cowles Memorial Cemetery on High Street, I remember the day I “ran away” (and, ran right into my parents who were getting gas in Lord Square).
Walking down North Main Street, I see the Kaede Bed & Breakfast and remember when my grandmother, Helen Fraga, was the director of what was then the Coburn Home. My sister and I spent so many afternoons there – eating cookies, playing the piano, and watching General Hospital with the little old ladies.
With very little prompting friends eagerly reminisce about the old downtown: Quint’s, Conley’s, Hill’s, and Woolworth’s. I have especially fond memories of a little store called The Pomegranate and one on Market Street that sold Mrs. Grossman’s stickers by the yard.
My beau’s dad, Henry Chouinard, tells of sitting on Town Hill counting cars on a Saturday night and serving as lookout while his friends rode their sleds down Manning Street in a snowstorm.
My own parents, Jan and Harry Howarth, were sweethearts at Ipswich High. I love their story about my dad giving my mom a gold locket on their first date.
These bits and pieces of family legend, shared experiences, and local folklore give this place we call home its history and identity. From blue collar to bluebloods, each of us brings our own stories, adding to the depth and personality of this little town.
The stories don’t have to be about important events or spectacular exploits. Some of the most memorable stories are small, quiet ones that capture the simple perfection of an ordinary day.
The stories don’t even have to be entirely true.
People tell stories. It’s what we do. It’s how we make sense of the world and connect with each other. Stories help us learn empathy and understanding by allowing us to live for a moment in someone else’s shoes.
The best part is that the stories never end. As long as we keep listening and sharing, the old stories will live forever. And, as long as we live, we will always be adding new stories.
All images from my Instagram feed.
This piece was originally published in the Ipswich Chronicle as part of my bi-weekly column.