Needham, Massachusetts

Creative Writing Assignment – December 2017

In the beginning, the low-level city of reedy marsh lay surrounded by water, salt and fresh, sea and river. Along a westward path, the city followed the river and discovered the land of a great plain; rich and plentiful, and dense with gravel. The city desired the land of the plain and took from it, leaving behind its railroads, sand pits and a new, growing populace. A town was born.

Arms outstretched like a grandmother’s embrace, Great Plain Avenue encircles the town, wiggling its fingers to touch its neighbors. At the Avenue’s middle lies its heart, a pulsing center anchored by the Town Hall. The squat, red-bricked building lords over an expansive area of a New England town green and a singular, majestic sugar maple. The maple’s roots reach deep into the green planting itself for centuries to come. Leafy limbs branch out for shade in the summer and adoration during the holiday season. Every December night, the deadened brown, stark branches come alive with waves of blue lights hung by the town’s firefighters, pleased to bring life and light to their community. The boughs shine as a beacon of celebration and tradition. Families flock to the flick of the switch. Cars slow as they pass the blue wonder.   

Other storefronts flank the Hall and dominate the Avenue, tightly squeezed along a straight half mile of two lanes and sidewalks, stop lights, crosswalks and train tracks. Shops offer residents everything they need for a vital and substantial life.

Metal wood-paneled station wagons pull up to Rimley’s Market. Acne-faced boys load paper bags of groceries through a back window which disappears down into the door frame. Children crowd together on the ridged, pleather second row of seats, twisting, turning, crawling over each other for the short five to ten-minute drive home.

A converted main street home houses the YMCA. When its front door opens, hints of an inside basement pool waft forth with steam and chlorine, inviting patrons in for training, toning, and graduating teens ready for summer lifeguard work at Rosemary Pond. Across a side street, steel on steel grinds the blades of ice skates at the sporting goods store, honing edges to cut the ice of town ponds and reservoir in pick up hockey games and from twirls by diminutive Peggy Flemings. Rinks appear on the ice with snowbank boards, cleared and shoveled by those who wish to skate.

Bordering the hubs of activity, an aged three-story elementary school releases students to field and playground, bound and kept by a chain-link fence lest the students escape during the day to visit Brigham’s ice cream shop, a block away, and beckoning with fudge ripple or bubble-gum flavored scoops heaped on sugar cones and rolled in signature chocolate jimmies. Sounds bounce over and through the school-yard fence boasting competitive games of four square as the balls hit the blacktop and hands clap in unison to “Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack, all dressed in black, black, black, With silver buttons, buttons, buttons, all down her back, back, back…”.

Other elementary schools sit outside the center and inside the maple tree-lined neighborhoods of parallel streets where children walk to other red-bricked schools as their parents wave them off from front steps. The high school stands within the town center environs. Mightily set upon a hill, the Classic Greek architecture, complete with Doric columns bracket the front entrance, giving credence to the importance the town and its families place on higher education. Students climb the front steps, arms laden with textbooks, covered with the brown paper bags from Rimley’s, cut down to size and mysteriously folded into a jacket. The number of inked initials and doodles denotes the level of interest in the texts’ subjects.

The health and wellness of the soul is well tended, too. The Avenue nods to its earliest New England roots with white steeple Protestant churches anchoring each end of the half mile. As the town grew, other denominations dotted the radii, continuing out from the center. As land grew scarcer, the newest populations built their Temples at the farthest reaches of the town. On Sunday mornings, parking lots fill with sedans and station wagons, cars built for families, bringing them inside for worship and to linger with coffee, donuts, and conversations. There are no pressing other engagements. Sunday is a day of rest and peace.

Weekend afternoons pull neighbors outside. Yards of the post-war developments of Cape Cods, ranches, and split levels raked in the fall and driveways and walkways hand shoveled in the winter. Spring blooms with pale green maple trees. Their helicopter seeds spiral to the ground, picked up, opened, and placed on noses, Pinocchio-style.

Yellow balls of forsythia, purple walls of lilacs and pink cotton-candy sticks of cherry trees dot the yards with green and yellow grasses neatly trimmed by push mowers. Children race across the streets, calling out for games of dodge ball and kick the can until the streetlights signal dinner time.

There is no need to visit the city created by the town’s offering of gravel. The town tugs its families close and keeps them close, in mind, body and spirit.

This is my town. Needham, Massachusetts.

This is a town proud of its community. Our town boasts names who have walked Great Plain Avenue: Governors Charlie Baker and Philip Murphy, Gold medalist Olympian, Aly Raisman, former NHL player and coach, Robbie Ftorek, astronaut and member of the International Space Station, Sunita Pandya Lyn Williams.

They are the past, the present, and the future.

I am the past, the present and the future, sprung from a street off the Avenue.

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