Thursday, August 5, 2010


I take us back to the interstate to continue on one exit to Littleton. I am so distracted by past and present that I miss the turnoff and so when we first see Littleton we are looking down on it from the interstate. It looks naked, though everything around it is covered with fall colors. A grim and forbidding place, Gillian says. I tell her this is a town without shade trees, much less a village green. And yet I am ready to go down into it, for nostalgia is coming again, like clouds descending that contain nostalgia both for what was and for what had not been.

For this is a year-round people’s place. This is where we would be drive over from White Pines for shopping. The driver a man from the village, and beside him Nana’s maid. Gaga did not do shopping trips and Nana did not drive. It was not until she was in her 80s that she got a license. Then she decided not to drive anyway.

The family marveled at how her maid Evelyn could tell which melons were ripe by touching them and sniffing them. Nana and Evelyn and sometimes my brother and I would go to McGoon’s the quality store – a service outpost for the summer people’s towns right here in the middle of this mill town. A place to stock up on S.S. Pierce canned good from Boston, and fresh meat and fish and vegetables such at would not be found at the Aldrich store in Franconia or at Littleton’s supermarket.

We leave the interstate to drive into Littleton and suddenly past and present are intermingled again. We come into town crossing a shaky old iron bridge over the wild Amonoosic River which is right past the now unused railroad station which still, like the unused Sugar Hill station, has its RAILWAY EXPRESS sign. I point out the high clapboard building at the start of Main Street from which Gaga’s friend the old Littleton police chief surveyed the town. If you needed a driver’s license and did not want to take the test, Gaga would speak to his friend and you would get a license on the spot. Nana was proud that she had actually taken the driving test. And so too my brother and me, who got ours just after turning16 in Connecticut.

Seeing the place with Gillian it looks more like a parched Western town than like something in the heart of old New England. For there really are no shade trees at all. Cars are parked diagonally rather than parallel to the curb. One new place is book store. I tell her that Terri had shown me an application she got for working at the bookstore. It was like an application to a rarefied college, and it made me angry that a little store owner could get away with being so pretentious in a town that had so little culture in it. I see the old drug store, that used to be called Parker’s, and the White Mountain Restaurant, a counter place where you could get Cheeseburgers or pancakes as relief form the multi-course Germanic food cooked and served at White Pines.

We come to the movie theater – one of the movie theaters that sustained people over in the summer towns, the others in Lisbon and Bethlehem. I point to the steep road behind it that leads to the house where Aunt Betsy still lives most of the year.

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