Incomplete memoir (Part 5)

About five years ago I started writing a memoir. I kept at it for a little while, writing about 1,000 words a day for a few weeks. I hadn’t yet been to therapy and there were many things I didn’t really understand about my life, but I still find the unfinished memoir to be a fascinating look into my own past. I’ve decided to post it in installments here, with only a few redactions. You can find the other sections by clicking the Memoir category.

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Watercolor by Marguerite Bride. My grandparents lived in the building on the left.

5.

I cling to Lenox, Massachusetts, like a shipwrecked sailor to the last buoyant plank.

After 25 moves in seven states and two countries, I feel a need to have some place to call home. Lenox is that place, even though I only lived there until I was five years old. Returning home to Lenox gives me a feeling of rootedness that I don’t get anywhere else, and my family’s long history in the town offers a connection to the past that’s nearly impossible to replicate. (Although I did recently discover that Buffalo, New York, is home to some similar family history, if not a similar emotional surge.)

Lenox is the quintessential New England town – at the least the New England that’s not near the ocean. A lovely Main Street bordered by stately homes. Few enough streets that you can explore them all in an afternoon. Locals who dislike the New Yorkers who take over on summer weekends or during big concerts at Tanglewood. And lots and lots of rich people.

That last part may not be quintessentially New England, but it’s certainly a hallmark of Lenox. The town was the summer playground of wealthy industrialists in the late 1800’s and throughout the first half of the 20th century, and it now caters to the BMW-driving, sweater-tied-around-the-shoulders set that I spend most of my working life fighting against. But I still love it.

Every year, Jen and the boys and I go to Tanglewood with my cousins to see James Taylor, who lives in the next town over. This is the highlight of the summer music season at Tanglewood. The concert sells out every year, and has attracted so many visitors that the event organizers had to impose a strict ticket limit of 18,000 a few years back, after the 2002 show drew more than 24,000 fans and effectively shut down Berkshire County for hours.

Tanglewood consists of a large, open-sided performance space known as the Shed, fronted by an enormous expanse of lawn bordered on all sides by elderly pine trees. Each year, the throng fills the seats in the shed, but the real party is on the lawn, as people bring everything but their refridgerator to feast and imbibe before, during and after the performance. It’s no surprise to see a dozen aging yuppies gathered around a portable table, complete with candles, wine and the hosts’ best china from the hutch at home.

But you know what? I love it. And although I hate to admit it, these are my people. Not my class, certainly, but they’re the inheritors of the same general genetic material as I. My grandfather’s family has been in the United States since the 1630’s, and only a series of poor career choices and the fickle hand of fate have kept me and my family from the patrician lifestyle enjoyed by so many in my hometown.

2 Replies to “Incomplete memoir (Part 5)”

  1. Good piece. Actually it was the fickle hand of a person who was a long time very close childfriend of mine that was behind our family leaving Lenox. Makes me sad to think people can be so mean and greedy. Over the years I have gone from hurt and very angry to sad.

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