Today is Thetford's 250th birthday. Norwich's was a few weeks ago. I
posted the first of my reflections on the histories of our towns nearly a
year ago. I've posted one each week for the whole of our towns'
semiquincentennial year. (I loved that word a year ago, and I still love it
Today, in the midst of the birthday bash, I'll consider what these
historical reflections have meant to me. I have said many times that my
writings are a description of what I found between my two ears: they are the
direct result of my experiences here in the Upper Valley for nearly four
decades. Just last Monday somebody said, "Thanks for all the research you
do!" I responded, "Research!? I don't do no stinkin' research."
Here's today's fun fact: I lied. Although I don't DO research at the time I
am writing, I definitely have DONE a lot of research in the past. And then
I stored it between my ears. And I have now written about it before my
brain could turn to mush.
And, for me, the funnest fun fact of all has been that my research over the
last four decades has primarily involved listening to people, or watching
people, or learning from people. In every one of my vignettes you will find
embedded stories about history that I have learned from real people. You
have, of course, noticed that I have rarely mentioned names, except for a
few persons who are no longer alive. But there were no made-up people
"telling" me stuff, nor was there stuff that I made up. Real people have
told me that they have read my reflections and recalled our real
conversations from five, or ten, or twenty-five years ago.
I have, of course, kept my beady eyes (and flapping ears) open over the
years. I have tried to take what people have told me and then looked around
our communities to see how their stories fit in. A land surveyor told me
about the Vermont/New Hampshire boundary markers, and I went and found some.
Then I read the Supreme Court case that established the boundary. The
Orange County Forester told me about the red-pine seeding program in the
1930s, and I observed the pines in several places in Norwich and Thetford.
The point is, I guess, that I have come to appreciate how much I have relied
on people to learn about the histories of our towns. And these have been
just regular people living regular lives. And the regular lives of regular
people involve hurricanes and floods, interstate highways, roads, railroads,
mines, telephones, ice houses and ice rinks, fences, and cemeteries, and all
of the normal stuff of regular lives.
I have also heard many comments about my postings from regular people, in
our two regular towns, over the past year. So often I have heard how
something I wrote stirred some special memory for them, or answered some
question they had wondered about. I have been, I must say, touched by the
sincerity of the comments I have received.
History is like literature: there can be many points of view. Take
Ecclesiastes 3:1 in the Bible. It starts out "To every thing there is a
season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven." Google "every thing
there is a season," and you'll turn up at least a dozen different
translations of this well-known passage. Different people, regular people,
interpret the same words in many different ways.
But I like King James's translation, the one I quote above: "To every thing
there is a season." And now, as our towns' bicenquinquagenary year closes,
the season for my little notes draws to a close as well.
It has been a pleasant task indeed, each Wednesday, to write these
reflections. Thank you, all of you, so much for reading them.
Happy Birthday, Norwich! Happy Birthday, Thetford!