Did you ever clean out a closet and find that tattered old shoe box in the back? Even though you know what it is, when you open it the sights and smells evoke memories of your past life that have been filtered out of your everyday life. The treasures you have stored sat silently, potently, waiting for you to lift the cover and travel back in time.
That’s what today was – an opening of that shoe box. Zanne and I left the house and headed east to Newburyport, MA. We grew up there at a time when it was not a cute, historic destination city. The downtown was dark and sad with blocks of empty store fronts and only the necessary establishments like Atkinson’s hardware, Collis’ Market (who delivered groceries right to our house), Ferlita’s Sub Shop, a couple of banks, the library and the aging YMCA. Folks congregated at Fowles’ for coffee and newspapers that brought the world a bit closer.
When I was in high school the reconstruction began. With federal grants, the city began to reinvent itself and slowly over the years since my absence it became infused with a charm and expensive air that I find strange. After high school, during my “gap year”, I stayed home and worked downtown in the newly renovated Inn Street shopping area. When I was old enough to legally drink, The Grog was the hip spot for us locals, offering up and coming bands and hippies in Frye Boots and jeans.
So today we opened that box and walked the streets we had watched evolve through our childhood. “Remember Pat and Pam where Mom bought us our first bras!” “What ever happened to Krays Men’s Store?” “I remember buying my first, cheap perfume aptly named “Ambush”, at what is now that ritzy pizza place!” “What happened to The Clog Shop and Siddhartha’s where I saved up for months to buy my Frye Boots?”
We wandered the cobbled streets, marveling at the changes and the new establishments. Zanne was working with her new camera and got some amazing shots.
And then suddenly, I spotted it! A Cheese Shop, Gromit!! (Note: nod to Wallace and Gromit, one of my all-time favorite British movies.)
As you may be aware, earlier this week we made a Cheese Shop discovery in Walpole, NH. I was instantly drawn into this shop and the intoxicating aroma of CHEESE made me swoon.
The Grand Trunk was a cheese-lover’s emporium. Angela, the owner, kindly offered samples and explained the finer points of her selections. I settled on a wedge of Buenalba with Wine from Spain then asked for a suggestion for a creamy blue. Angela gave me a taste of St. Agur from France and I would have bought it all but for the cost. I asked first if she had ever had Boggy Meadow Farm Cheeses from our adventure earlier this week. She indeed carried their cheeses but was currently out. Then I sprang the BIG ONE – “What about Humboldt Fog?”. I had discovered this delight last month while visiting my daughter Hanni in Arcata, CA. Not that I was trying to be a cheese snob, but what were the chances, right?
“As a matter of fact, I have some right over there to the left”, replied Angela. Sure enough, here in the town I had grown up was a shop offering an obscure cheese from the other side of the country that I had discovered just weeks before. How cool is that? How “small world”?
Our final stop was lunch at The Grog. I had to order the Grogburger – rare, blue cheese, grilled onions and on an English muffin. It was every bit as good as I remember from 30 odd years ago. The atmosphere hadn’t changed much either with that unique bar smell of stale beer hops and warm food. But better than the food was the conversation with my sister. The proverbial shoe box was open on the table between us and we giggled and laughed as we dug into our brains and tried to remember names of long lost friends and events that, perhaps, only we collected.