Sunday, September 13, 2009
A love letter to Groton, Massachuetts: Part I
Did you see the film Lost in Translation? I heard it described as Sophia Coppola's love letter to Tokyo. This blog post is the first half of my love letter to Groton, Massachusetts, the town that I've called home for the past five years. I'm getting ready to sell half my stuff and transition to urban living in a few weeks. Part of simplifying my life is saying goodbye to a place I love. I'm a little reflective these days, so bear with me. : )
If you know me, you know that I love Groton. This love affair started years ago, long before I was a resident. As a college student at Northeastern University in Boston, I would, once a year, take a pilgrimage with a number of my friends to a restaurant called Parker's Maple Barn in Mason, New Hampshire (just over the Mass border). Parker's (as we call it) is housed in a rustic barn with exposed beams and woodburning stoves. It's very cozy. You are greeted at the front door by a large wooden American Indiana holding a sign that tells you to wait to be seated. They serve up big plates of breakfast (they do dinner to, but I've only been for morning fare). Their most famous breakfast dish is the Parker's Special which consists of enough food to feed a family of eight. The next step down in the Mini Parker which could feed a family of four. A little humor here, but the portions are HUGE.
As you can imagine, this place was like a dream for young college students living in the city. The large portions were certainly a big part of the draw, but there was so much more to it. It was an escape from our crowded, action-packed urban life, a chance to get out in nature (real nature, not the Boston Common). And it was a perfect excuse for a road trip that took you through beautiful countryside scenes and quaint New England towns, the quaintest being Groton.
I remember riding through Groton thinking that it seemed so perfect. It was such a beautiful little town, and so well preserved. It was as if it were set back in time. No flashy signs (they are all wooden), no bright lights, and all the houses and buildings on Main Street are antique. I remember thinking, "Who lives in this town?" It seemed so far away from the "real" world of Boston. At that time, an hour commute into the city was impossible to fathom.
I need to put a little "aside" in here (per Shakespeare) and mention that when I was 15 my family moved to New England from Alabama. We lived in Bedford for a year and then moved to Concord. Concord was my first true love here in Massachusetts and I still love it dearly. I'm a bit Concord obsessed, but as an adult, Concord was not a town I could afford to live in. Groton, in some ways started as a replacement for Concord, but I grew to love it in a different way and saw it as a better place to live. It's more pristine, more open, less crowded and more peaceful. It's like a hidden gem. There is that small detail that it's a bit remote, but you get used to that. Back to the story!
Through the years, after college, I continued the tradition of going to Parker's. I would go with my family, with my after-college friends and also with my husband (once I had one). When we took the scenic route, which can be skipped if you are in a hurry, we would once again go through Groton. I remember one time when Ryan and I were coming back from enjoying our Mini Parker breakfasts, we decided to take Route 40 out of Groton center. The green sign promised that the road would bring us to Lowell and we were living near there at the time. We had no sense of how this road would get us to Lowell, but decided to be adventurous (daring, I know!).
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Route 40 is a curvy road that meanders through Groton, then Westford, then Chelmsford and finally reaches Lowell. As we drove, we didn't think we were ever going to get to Lowell, but it didn't matter. What a great ride! The piece of Route 40 that goes through Groton is beautiful. The scenery is really lovely. It was well worth what felt like a never-ending ride (30 minutes).
About a year later, Ryan and I started thinking about buying our first house. We had never talked about Groton as a place to buy, but I think it was in the back of both of our minds. I came home from work one night and Ryan was beside himself with excitement. He wanted me to look at the photos of a little house he'd found online. I did and I loved it. It was in Groton.
We jumped in the car on that early summer evening and raced against time to get to the house before the sun went down. We planned to trespass and check out this home that we were starting to envision as our own (we are very imaginative, which has its pros and cons - but mostly pros).We got there with only a few minutes of daylight left and circled the house, looking in windows and liking what we saw. In subsequent trips to Groton we grew more and more attached to the home (Bad! I know you are suppose to leave emotions out of it, but buying a house is ALL about emotions) and to the town.
Long story short, the house had a wicked mold problem in the crawlspace that money couldn't even fix to the point of confidence. Also, there was a threat of extreme flooding due to some new construction near by. It broke Ryan's heart when we received the news. I'm not kidding. In his mind, we were already living there (he's the more imaginative of the two of us). So, it was back to square one. (One little note here. A couple did buy the house and the next season the backyard completely flooded. The local newspaper ran a picture of it. We were so glad we didn't act on emotion).
We continued our search and expanded to surrounding towns, but we had a special place in our hearts for Groton. It had already done a number on us. After a few weeks, we found a house in Groton that had some potential. It was a split entry. Ewww. Not at all what we were looking for. It was seriously outdated and would require a ton of cosmetic work. But it had the most beautiful backyard. The yard itself was perfect and beyond it was a meadow. And for a split, it was actually a very nice looking house. One of the best ones I've seen.
We decided to go for it and after the usual back and forth, we purchases the house. For the first month, we didn't live in the house, but worked on it every day and every night. We ripped up floors, we got rid of four layers of wallpaper, we painted every inch of the house including all trim and cabinets, and over time, after moving in, we (meaning Ryan) laid tile, ripped down and replaced walls, and did all kinds of other things to make our house a great place to live. We were proud of ourselves and the house (and still are!).
So what does our house have to do with loving Groton? It's all tied together really. It was one big wonderful experience. We loved this town. We loved our piece of it. We wanted to make it the best it could be (on a budget). We've enjoyed every minute of our lives in this place.
I know that I'm going to miss my life here when we are gone. But we weren't ready to settle here for the rest of our lives. We have other things we want to do. Other plans in our minds' eyes. One day, I have no doubt, that we will settle in again in a beautiful place that we will connect with just as much as we do Groton.
In my next post, I will continue writing about Groton. It will be a useful post. You will actually be able to use it as a guide if you decide to come for a day trip. And make sure to visit Parker's when you are up this way.
Okay, now off to cleaning and packing! The bank is coming tomorrow to decide what our home is really worth and if they will give our buyers the money to make it their own. Fingers crossed! I always have to keep that imagination at bay (dreaming of loft living right now) because until we close on the house, there's always the chance that we might not be going anywhere.
Credit for Groton Photo: Dave Hill