the Concord Magazinejan'99

Leave Your Mouse Ears at Home

By Deborah Bier, publisher and editor of this ezine.

Scotty Vanderhoof and I still shake our heads and sigh about this.

Concord Land!One noontime about a year ago, I was on my way to Vanderhoof's Hardware. I was standing at the curb across the street in the pedestrian walkway, waiting to cross Main Street and enter the store. There was a rare break in the usual flow of endless, weekday traffic, with only one car heading toward Monument Square. That vehicle didn't give much indication it was going to stop for my crossing, so I waited to be safe (defensive crossing: always a good idea on Main Street).

Sure enough, it didn't stop until it was IN the crosswalk. The driver was trying frantically to roll down the passenger-side window to talk to me. I saw a Boston area map on the seat. I assumed she was a tourist.

"Are you lost?" I asked, hoping that the traffic wasn't going to bear down upon us for a few more seconds.

"I want to be..." and she paused, gesturing wildly with her hands, but without lending enlightenment. "I want to BE...uh....uh"

I waited, hoping this sentence would get completed before the approaching cars I could see on the next block mowed us down.

Suddenly, her gestures got wider and faster. And she finally burst out with it in one rapid gasp: "I WANT TO BE WHERE IT ALL IS!!" She paused triumphantly, awaiting my reply.

Now, I was tempted to launch into an existential and epistemological discourse on what nonsense she had just spoken. And I wanted to pretend I had no idea what she was talking about, requiring her to verbalize more clearly and actually THINK about what she was saying. But I knew EXACTLY what she meant. And I didn't like it one bit.

Feeling my life now threatened by the pressing traffic, I did a little fast talking myself. "This isn't Williamsburg. We don't keep our history in one place. We live in it. It's everywhere. Go around the corner to the right," I said, pointing to Lexington Road. "The next right after that, there is a booth for tourist information. Get a Concord map. Study it." And I walked away to buy some lightbulbs and steelwool, and to share this strange event with Scotty. Though there was much more I wished I could have said.

So I take this opportunity to do so now. Madam, whoever you are: if we have somehow given you the impression that Concord is an historical theme park, we apologize. Because this is highly inaccurate. And I hope it will always be.

Yes, Concord is a town with a great deal of pride in its history. Yes, we have taken great pains to preserve remnants of that history, particularly that dating from 1635 onward. And you will sometimes see an historical re-enactor or two walking about. But mostly modern-day people live here, and we have all the trappings of modern life - in great abundance. But we do not keep our historical sites penned off in one area of town - we live, work and play among them.

Many of our best treasures have to be discovered; they blend into our common landscape and the texture of our daily lives. A theme park is going to give you a pre-packaged experience. The best of Concord is going to be a surprise and an adventure. But it will take patience, time, study, and luck to uncover it.

One of my favorite things about being here is that it is easier to be aware of rubbing up against history every day. We connect to the past, yet remain cutting-edge. This balance doesn't always work comfortably, and we don't always agree about how to go about it, but it makes life genuine....real. And that's something you can't get in an historical theme park: no matter how accurate it is, it is out of time...distant...fragile in a way.

Over the years, this temporal blending has gifted me with a different perspective than I had previously. I have sense of wading in a continuous stream of history, one stretching from the past, intersecting with the present, and moving on into the future. I've come to realize that history doesn't just stop at some time our forebearers lived in: it is still unfolding and right now is a part of it, too.

So, if you visit us, drive as if you were in the real world with real traffic laws. Don't stop traffic on Main Street except for pedestrians in crosswalks (it IS the law, after all). Remember most of what you see will be "real" and not a simulation. And please leave your mouse ears at home!


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