Celebrating the Tradition of Stockbridge, Massachusetts

Celebrating the Tradition of Stockbridge, Massachusetts

It has only been a year since I graduated from college, but it feels like five. I spent a happy four years on Oyaron Hill at Hartwick College. I made lifelong friends and amazing memories. The whole experience was truly my destiny because my mother, my uncle, and my aunt all attended the school before me.

There were times during my stay, when I'd be walking to class on a foggy, drizzly day (the typical weather of the blessed town of Oneonta) that I could feel my aunt, who passed when I was five, walking next to me. I'm not one to usually believe in ghosts or spirits, but something about that place made me feel such a connection to her.

After my first week at Hartwick, I met a girl named Becky in one of my classes. She was also a legacy student, someone with family members who also attended the school. She mentioned that her mother had graduated in '81 and after a quick intake of breath, I said: "Mine too!" We became fast friends and have been inseparable from that day forward.

So I believe it was fate, once again, that brought Becky, her mother, my mother, and me together again on the anniversary of our graduations.

We would walk to the dining hall, giggling and laughing the whole way, retracing the exact steps our mothers had once taken. Looking back on it, I don't think either of us took the time to appreciate what a profound connection we had to this beloved school.

So I believe it was fate, once again, that brought Becky, her mother, my mother, and me together again on the anniversary of our graduations. We had planned to meet in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, the home of Norman Rockwell and the subject of many his paintings.

If you've never seen Norman Rockwell's Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas, you're missing out. Rockwell lived in Stockbridge for twenty-five years. There are various aspects of the town reflected in his paintings, from Main Street to the surrounding houses, to the town police chief who often modeled for him. In his paintings, Rockwell paints what seems to be the joy and beauty of small town life. Looking at his paintings have always made me wish I had been born in a different time, back when you could buy milkshakes for fifty cents.

When you walk down Stockbridge Main Street today, you feel like you're walking in Rockwell's painting. The only things missing are the 1950's style cars and the snow-frosted roofs. All the buildings in his painting are still standing and look almost identical to when they were painted—it's the interior of these buildings that’s different now. The meat market is now a restaurant, and the little side alleys are full of boutiques with imported jewelry and handcrafted goods. It seemed the only original buildings, both inside and out, were Old Country Store and The Red Lion’s Inn.

The fact that after all this time, the town has remained almost exactly the same baffled me.

It was at the Red Lion's Inn where I sat around a table with my college friend and our mothers catching up on the happenings of our time apart. It felt like we had stepped back in time. The wait staff pulled out the chairs for the ladies; they served tea in individual painted china teapots and set the table with sterling silverware. Their bacon macaroni and cheese seemed out of place at first, but once tasted, fit right in. Homemade entrees and locally sourced meat were what make the restaurant so tasty. And it was that old-timey atmosphere that made you want to go back again and again.

The inn even had little cottages you could rent around Stockbridge, each with its own story. The Firehouse, a favorite rental, has been featured in several of Rockwell's paintings.

The fact that after all this time, the town has remained almost exactly the same baffled me. Walmart and other chain stores could not be found within a five mile radius. It's clear that the people of this town wanted to stay true to Rockwell's painting. In fact, every December the town reenacts the painting. They put up a giant Christmas tree in Rockwell's old studio, the townspeople bring out their antique cars, and people dress up as carolers and sing to visitors just as it is in the painting.

There is so much respect for tradition and celebration of what once was. And it was in this town, seated in the fancy dining room of the Red Lion's Inn as we celebrated our past and embraced our futures, that I thought we could not have come to a more perfect place. Perhaps this will become a tradition as well.

Rose is an American-born, Ireland-based editor who is currently expanding her craft at NUI Galway. The only way into her heart is with peanut butter, classic 18th-century literature, and cats.