Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Think Globally; Shop Locally

Warmer days: Downtown Greenfield, Massachusetts

Darcie’s willingness to hand-paint raw-wood boxes, mirrors, pegboards and picture frames for family presents this year hasn’t necessitated a major shopping expedition such as last year’s trip to Northampton, but there was still three nights worth of Hanuukah presents for Willow to fill, and a few smaller supplements to Darcie’s new and already-in-use glider rocking chair seemed appropriate despite rapidly waning funds.

Monday, then, while Darcie napped with the baby, I hit the highway aiming for the next exit down. And here the quantum goofmind of the universe kicks in, for halfway there I glanced over at a passing driver and recognized her as a now-graduated Alex, once one of my favorite students and now one of those beloved friends who could become a crush easily but shouldn’t, the ones whose phone numbers you keep until one day you think about them and want to call and the number is long gone.

Heart racing, I pulled alongside her in the other lane once she had passed, and waved and waved and waved until, giving up hope and fading back, she glanced over and put her hand to her mouth with glee. The serendipitous glee that went between us at 70 miles an hour was almost tangible, and, in my case, it was only partially because of who I had found in this way, because, God, finding a long-lost friend in a passing car? Damn, I always wanted to do that. Seriously. I daydream about it all the time when driving.

Alex followed me, blinker on, for a mile. Finally pulled her over in a Texaco lot on the edge of the lower Greenfield mall; hugs in the parking lot led to an offer of company much appreciated on my intended journey through town. We left her SUV in the lot at Staples, and, after a quick trip to purchase a not-yet-installed-properly wireless router and card for the laptop (damn, I forgot to call Comcast again for host- and domainname), drove around the rotary and into the bottom half of downtown Greenfield.

Ah, Greenfield. Halfway to Northampton; nearer by a whisker than Keene (NH) or Brattleboro (VT), our three vastly different closest-to-home possibles for commercial excess. Home to the anti-WalMart movement, and to a brand-new urban energy park devoted to nature and alternate energy sources. Bracketed by safe small-busness zones that separate the downtown area from a distant McDonalds on one end of the long L-shaped main strip and Applebees down by the interstate exit on the other. And, at heart, the middle ground, Main Street: still small businesses once grounded commercially by local department store Wilson’s, now far more attractive as a collection, an almost-quaint main street strip, forming an intimate community center for this otherwise rural region.

Alex and I had a grand old time in town, sharing future dreams reminiscing and relocating old friends in our mind as we wandered the three blocks from the toy store to fave local record shop About Music. The stores, all local in their outlook and as warm and cozy in merchandise and atmosphere as only smalltown main street stores can be, buzzed with the sort of funky stranger and half-known local that frequent this small town on the edge of two other states. And my teaching peers at school were out in droves, waving to us from windows, nodding on the sidewalk in passing, offering holiday greetings in shelf-aisles and at check-out counters. It was good to be out in the sun, and to be out with a friend a bonus blessing.

Shopping itself was a comprehensive success. Bought Willow a set of plastic dishes complete with drying rack, a set of bath crayons, and a neon orange plastic slinky at our first stop, in fact; also a few trinkety things – Chinese yoyos, bendy tubes, well-painted dreidels, and thick straw fingertraps – for stocking stuffers. Browsed the World Eye bookstore for a while before settling on a curious no-spill reading light that, instead of emanating light into the air, lights a piece of flat plastic; you set it against the page and it illuminates it. Tried soft silk-laced and velvet clothing on Darcie in my mind’s eye at Zema’s, but, remembering that the Yoga class she had wanted to attend conflicts with my evening meeting schedule, bought her a beginner’s kit complete with instructional CD and flash cards showing popular positions.

For lunch we stopped at Café Koko, and, snagging the couch, shared lattes, spinach knishes and an egg sandwich made with thick local maple bacon. And conversation, of course, mostly about the impending changes here at school, what with the financial crisis.

But time grew short. A final stop at the CD store, where I chatted a bit with a woman I know from Northfield, an alum and parent of two current students, about the same financial crisis, and what the last few years of trying to manage it’s symptoms had brought to hiring policies and shifts in and of policy implementation methodology. I purchased the new live Patty Griffin CD for myself; Alex bought something I didn’t see, and we drove back to her car to split up and head, respectively, home.

Then yesterday to Greenfield twice again. First in the morning with Darcie and Willow to pick up birdseed at Agway and a chocolate-cake yule log, sprouting merangue mushrooms, at Merlings, where the baby got a cookie wrapped in wax paper. Later, back home, my mother came up for her weekly visit; after a short trip to the yearbook office for Darcie to approve and send back this year’s proofs, we did the strip entire, from the top of the hill downwards this time, looking for boxes of Christmas cards, finally finding them at World Eye.

And back home again, and more of the same around-the-house with baby that I long for eternally; otherwise my days from Monday to now have been a blur of time spent home, in cardboard boxes and on the floor with the baby and her new toys, while Darcie exercises her talents, painting flowers and spotted grids of faux-indigenous art on raw wood. It feels like family life, and knowing it will not last long makes me yearn for summer.

And now it rains: the attic roof pops like the limbs of an old chair as we settle in to the grey afternoon. Willow lies in bed awake with her half-napping mommy, chattering softly about nursing and the sky and who-knows-what-else until she shushes herself, whispers mommy, and falls asleep. Tonight will be Christmas Eve, and tomorrow Christmas. And though the laptop’s got a virus and I lost my keys to the laundry, though my ears are once-again stopped up and my fever’s not gone below 99.8 in three days now, the center of the universe is still and calm as it should be, and it’s all – all of it – good.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:05 PM |

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