The number of times mail has appeared in the business-related post office box I’ve rented for the last few months could be counted on two hands, not including pinkies or thumbs. So let me tell you what a charge it is when I stop by and the clerk remembers that my 60-year-old-box opens only one out of the, say, fifteen times I spin the combination. He hands me my mail (mostly junk; today a delivery confirmation) before I can even ask.
I was a teenager once, so I understand why my daughter and her friends moan about our tiny town while muttering under their breaths how they can’t wait to leave. I on the other hand, love the place. Don’t get me wrong. It is small (her high school class has less than 90 kids) which presents limitations, and though the winding roads and ocean vistas are post-card beautiful, the area has issues and misery like any other.
But there is something about the clerk who knows me even though there’s rarely mail in my box—and a town common that hosts a weekly farmer’s market that welcomes not only the three farmers who attend, but also a jewelry maker, a cookie baker, a sirloin vendor and a Yoyo seller—to make you feel part of something pure, a throwback, if you will, to an less sophisticated time.
The 2:30 market kick-off is announced via a ringing cow bell, and other than the snaking string of humanity that waits for fresh-picked corn, the longest lines form in front of an ice cream truck and a hot dog stand. From the number of barefoot kids running across the grass, it’s clear that the Thursday afternoon market offers major entertainment for the toddler set and an engaging distraction for young moms who spread blankets on the grass and nurse their infants while listening to a middle-aged guitar player croon Jimmy Buffet, the Bee Gees and Neil Young. Older kids romp in the safe area between the Unitarian Church and Meeting House Pond, skipping back once in a while to beg mom for a pony ride or a painted tattoo.
In the corner, bushel baskets tumble with plump green beans and the first tart apples of the season. Piles of smooth yellow squash and shiny zucchini sit next to stacks of fresh corn, where silk hangs like floss from unmarked ears. All around, vendors and customers chat with each other. The crowd sifts and changes as people walk by gripping cloth bags heavy with tomatoes, topped with fat bouquets of bobbing sunflowers. Visitors peruse the booths until the weight of their purchases sounds the supper bell. By 6:00, it’s all over.
The last of the stragglers return home for supper, stakes holding up the white peaked tents are yanked from the ground, and this new vendor, hosting a table for a one time market test, takes a deep cleansing breath, aware that over the course of the afternoon, a kind of soft wind blew through, pushing out all that is stale and musty and leaving the air untainted and fresh.