This past weekend I began a new chapter in my life. After a self-imposed exile, I and my way better half moved back to the place I have always considered home, even after 35 or so years of not living there. We are heading one town away from where we are now to Southbridge, MA, the town I grew up in.
I have been thinking about doing this for some time now, especially for the last year after landing a great job in Southbridge. I realized just how much I missed it. Now some people think there must be something wrong with me, and they just might be right, after all, I have been living on the greatest lake in the area, on property that my family has owned for almost 100 years. Some would consider moving back to Southbridge a step down, but I don’t see it that way at all. Rather I look at it as a coming home.
True, Southbridge is not quite the same as it was when I left. There are many changes, the school system is rated one of the worst in the state, recently having been taken over by the Commonwealth, and it also ranks among the bottom of the list in income. But still it is Southbridge and there are many good people here, of all stripes. There are many people who are trying to make a difference. I think it is time for me to be one of these, I don’t know how or at what level yet, but perhaps it is time for me to give back to the town that gave me my start in life.
- The town that provided me with the set of values I still hold.
- The town that provided me with a first-class education.
- The town that made me who I am today.
Of course, there may be some who might not think I turned out so well, but so be it.
As I have been walking and driving around Southbridge, I see good things and see not so good things. I see neighborhoods that were once well kept with manicured front lawns, fresh coats of paint, porches where people would sit and talk to their neighbors, that are now rundown and unkempt. But I have also seen signs in other neighborhoods of improvements being made. Three-deckers being remodeled, front yards being landscaped, pride being taken in the homes and neighborhoods again.
Southbridge is no different than a thousand other small towns throughout the country. Once burgeoning industrial centers, with full employment and vibrant retail operations, the factories moved out, malls and then regional shopping centers replaced the downtown stores. Towns where personalities take over politics and actually working together to improve conditions often takes a back seat to who is siding with who against another.
Will I become involved in the local political scene? That is hard to say at this time. I will admit I have been perusing the local cable access channels attempting to get up to speed on what is going on. But until such time as I make a decision on how I will proceed, I will be spending my time getting to re-discover my new/old home town, and writing about it here.