The greatest inspiration for this writer is the opportunity to visit the well, so to speak. That is what I call the great grace of being mentored. A deep well for me has been the writings and sharing of the Village's own historian: Arlene Rose Gouveia.
I have acknowledged her many times before in this blog.
Arlene and I grew up but a few houses from each other on School Street in the Village. She about 5 years older than I. As adults, my journey took me far from the Village in many ways, her journey kept her closer to where she had been born and raised.
My mother did not grow up in the Village. Her mother did. Her parents were memory keepers and imbued that in their daughter. I would come to it very late, going back in time as it were. She was fed on it, each story and memory being passed on and kept alive.
Up until last month I had probably not seen Arlene in about 50 years, give or take. Perhaps we passed each other on the street as we walked to Church. I remember her, I remember her whole family. My brother was always best buddies with her younger brother.
For once, a trip to New England had more days to it and a time was fixed for me to visit her in her home. Like the excellent teacher she once was, she was prepared for me.
I was in the storyteller's lair! I was gifted with more stories and information than my mind and my pen sought to register. Laughter and sadness was laced throughout. I settled into the lair and let it wash over me. My heart would tell me what my pen might forget.
How do you pass on the history of a place? A loved, wonderful place. You first must live it and then let it come alive once more in your heart. Then you speak it, record it, write it. For Arlene and I, the goal is to keep the stories alive and invite as many as possible to enjoy them, to be nourished by them. In the context of history, there are lessons, there is pride in a people, there is a deep sweetness.
This meeting of like minds will result in new posts, many of them. After seeing her collection of research books bending their shelves, her long and laden table next to her kitchen where the times and days of the Village lay in quiet accumulation, I took a long deep breath.
When you relive a story by telling it again, you find the nuances and even more humor that was first suspected and embroider it with memory. From this chair Arlene can reach her bookshelves, her table. At her side her notebooks and pens, perhaps some historical point she is researching cuddled up to her glasses. When I pulled up this photo from my iPhone I noticed the book or pamphlet with the big HAPPY, HAPPY, HAPPY. Did I tell you that being a historian can take you far from everyday concerns? There is no such thing as coincidence...this message is for us.
Arlene's table with the accumulation of Village stories and lore
takes up the length of one wall.
There is often loss, sadness, confusion and disappointment in each of our lives. Today there is a frightening lack of family, community, common everyday kindness. The many advantages of today often blot out what truly nourishes us. "No man is an island " the scribe once wrote. We are all a part of something. There is a deep need to know what that is - what defines us. Before the speed of transportation destroyed our anchors, before the constant barrage of texting there was simple conversation, shared recollection and tight community.
People yearn for stories. Do you know that there is even a web site where you can listen to people tell stories? How sad that those people have no story tellers of their own, storytellers based on the fact of village life. Stories woven with fact and history dancing all about them. Storytellers are weavers of words, words that are magic. Words that are of people and events long past. There are also storytellers who weave photographs of old that sparkle among the words and let us wander way, way back and wonder.
The Village life on School Street grounded us in the need for each other. It grounded us in small classrooms where our teachers cared so much that we felt like princes and princesses. I am unaware of one single disciplining action in those childhood school years. Bullying was unknown. You looked each classmate and teacher in the eye and read their regard for you. Each of us was treasured: by parents, grandparents, a slew of aunts and uncles, cousins, by our friends and classmates and by their parents.
The laughter in the playground framed the laughter in our adult lives. We belonged- we still do - if not in place, then in our memory stories.
In other years, I had driven through the Village was sad by loss and change. This time I was rewarded by a sight and sound a friend from the Village had predicted. Above the School Street Bakery is an apartment. It is on the side of the house facing up School Street, facing north. An elderly man sits by the window in a chair with the window wide open. His arms rest on the windowsill and he peers out. Beside him is a radio, just a little one, and a Portuguese station is on. He watches and waits. He waits for walkers with whom he can share a greeting, or even someone he can invite up for a story or share the platitudes of life. He might also hear echoes. He might think he hears the Taunton Band Club rehearsing of a Sunday morning. Perhaps he is waiting for children to come skipping home for the long-gone Fuller School. He thinks: when did walking become an olympic event and not a time to appreciate a neighbor's roses? When did earphones replace the sounds of the birds, or the luaghter of children? When did grandmothers and grandfathers. like himself, disappear from the scene? When did it require visiting hours to visit them?
We need our stories...each and every one of us....
stories give us the hope that chaotic times may once more be ordered and safe.
Our values rest in that order, when they are threatened on all sides
we find truth and help in the stories of our peoples..
When did it seem so important ro read your messages on your iPhone than to just have time to be immersed in quiet - where just maybe God might whisper to ou or you might have a creative thought or inspiration. We did not need tools to immerse ourselves into connectedness back then.
Arlene's's hands are painful with arthritis and mine are getting there - but, we have a mission and our hands are strong enough for that! A true mentor does not regard distance as an obstacle, a true mentor collects every story that comes her way. A true mentor keeps up with technology. Arlene and I talk via phone, e-mail, message, and through the wonderful I'm from Taunton Facebook page. Arlene has a e-tablet and keeps up with this blog faithfully. Arlene is not my only mentor, but she is mentor par excellence to so many. A true mentor knows her task is to pass it on!
May the stories you hold dear keep you warm in the storm. All you need
is memory and imagination. God bless our storytellers!
-Pinterest Storytelling Boards