Here we are again in post-foliage season, my vocational equivalent of “change of life.” We’ve suddenly gone from mega-business to business doldrums, brilliant-colored leaves to a stark gray treeline, and an abundant harvest to barren fields. Thankfully, though, there’s a balance to finances, nature and this old guy’s psyche; a couple of days ago I got a letter from a Massachusetts lady that really made me happy.
It was a thick envelope with a return address from Lowell, Mass. The word “Personal” was prominent on the lower left corner of the front. Still in my dark mood, there was something ominous about it.
“OK, what kind of boom is being lowered this time?” I thought as I sliced the envelope open. Right at the top in bold print were the words “Your story is also my story.”
I nudged a bit closer toward the dark side.
“So that’s it. She’s saying I’m guilty of plagiarism?” But when I read further, my world lit up.
The woman, Patricia O’Brien, had grandparents who lived at 4 Witt Place — a stone’s throw from the Vermont Statehouse. Patricia said she summered in Vermont. “Every summer, the day school was out my parents would put my sister Maurine and me on the noontime train (from Lowell where they lived) and 6 hours later we were met at the Montpelier depot by Nana and Papa.”
She went on to say that her grandparents had a camp at Keeler Bay in South Hero and the day after the young sisters’ arrival in Montpelier, they’d head northwest to South Hero. An integral part of their ritual was stopping at Toy Town Cabins just outside Montpelier to see a replica of the Vermont Statehouse.
Allow me to backtrack to a column I wrote in January 2010 titled “The little Statehouse that could.” In it I told about the Statehouse replica that was built back in 1929 to celebrate the opening of the Champlain Bridge and stayed at Toy Town until the early 1960s. It now resides here at Morse Farm. Before it arrived in 2008, pieces of it had been found in back of a Burlington area warehouse, almost fully rotted out. Through the efforts of Montpelier’s Historical Society and Kiwanis Club, it was obtained, restored and, after much debate, relocated here under a shelter at Morse Farm.
Toy Town Cabins were on Route 2, the main thoroughfare to Burlington at the time, so all folks of my vintage remember the little Statehouse. Thousands, like Patricia and Maurine, stopped to play around it and have their pictures taken, but all of a sudden it went away. Patricia said she continued coming to Vermont over the years with her husband, children and grandchildren “to share and relive these fond memories,” but her precious focus — the little Statehouse — was gone. That is until one more trip in May 2009.
On that trip, she stopped at the visitors bureau near Berlin Corners along with a picture of her sister and her sitting on the little Statehouse. She was told of its resurrection and where to find it. She described her reunion.
“As we got closer, my heart started to beat harder and as we rounded a curve in the road, there it was, My Little State House” — her numerous mentions of the structure were all in the possessive, capitalized and in bold print: My Little State House. “... I could not contain myself as tears flowed,” she continued. “(N)ot only because I had found it, but saddened by the fact that my sister, Maurine, who had passed away in 1988 at age 54, could not be with me to share the excitement that I was feeling.”
With her wonderful letter, she enclosed “then and now” pictures, along with a copy of my story “The little Statehouse that could,” which had appeared in the June 2013 Route 2 Tourist, Dining and Lodging Guide. She had picked up the guide on her most recent trip to Vermont.
So that’s how “my story is also her story.” We both shared a common memory from our youth and had found a way to relive that memory.
As I said, her letter made me happy at an otherwise dreary time of year. Thanks so much, Patricia O’Brien. Now I’m ready for the next season!
Burr Morse lives in East Montpelier.
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