I [heart] Northampton: An Homage

sign-postI love my small city.

I have loved raising my kids here. I love my spiritual communities: my UU home congregation, my Buddhist sangha, my little basically non-denominational church in the hills. I love the school communities that helped grow my kids up: the community action daycare, the hippy-dippy charter school, the public high school. I love the politics. The sensibilities. The size. The downtown. The rail trail. The people.

I love it, right now, in an anticipatory-likely-leaving-in-the-near-future way. The love is just that bit more dire, that bit more tender, that bit more bittersweet.

I am reminded that I love my small city because here I am, sitting at a high school graduation in which I have no official skin, which is to say, both my babies already did this, but here I am, because my family is about to expand one more. And the one more will be, mid-way through this community rite of passage, walking across the stage with her triumphant arms raised high because this accomplishment, which many take for granted (which I took for granted), was never guaranteed, not for her, but she made it happen anyway.

I love my small city. As I settle into my balcony seat in the borrowed-from-Smith-College building without air conditioning and a mass of humanity practicing its own form of, not global, but spacial, warming, I am awash in crushed out bliss.

The auditorium is nearly full, so when I look around and see a humanity, I see that they are dressed across a continuum: the t-shirt & shorts folks sitting along side the dressed-to-the-nines types. Some are dressed conservatively, some flashy, some casual, some artsy.

In front of me is a Sikh family: the father in navy blue full suit and the same burnt orange turban, intricately folded, that I have seen him wearing when he mows his lawn down the street from where I live. Next to him is his wife, warning a white billowy dress and earrings that dazzle and hang low.

There’s the mother of a kid I mentored in middle school, then lost touch and lost track. It’s good to know she is somewhere among the mortarboard-capped graduates.

There are littlests and kiddos of all ilk – behaving well to start, but who knows how the hours will unfold.

from https://fromwickedtowedded.wordpress.com/tag/lesbianville/
from https://fromwickedtowedded.wordpress.com/tag/lesbianville/

There is more than a smattering of lesbian moms throughout the crowd – this is Lesbianville, true to the moniker granted in 1989 by the National Enquirer.

God, I love this place.

Nearby is what I think is likely Urdu, and while English predominates, there are strains of Central American and Puerto Rican Spanish.  I’m pretty sure there are other languages, but that’s just what my ears are taking in.

There are babies letting us know they are here, both with their delight and their displeasure – all of it accompanied by the high school band, mostly in tune, mostly in sync, one of the flutists with pink-streaked hair.

For the national anthem everyone stands. Here’s another reason I love this town: half of us have our hands on our hearts and half of us don’t. And though there are the usual suspects on either side of this particular divide, there are conspicuous defectors – the shaved-head vet whose hand is not on his chest, the flaming liberal whose hand is.

And the thing that has made me fall in love again with this small city I have called home for the past two decades? This simple, silly thing: there, on the stage, next to the principal (who saved my son’s a** more times than he deserved but just as many times as necessary), next to the superintendent, is… wait for it…the mayor.

Photo by John Suchocki
Photo by John Suchocki

Our mayor, with his brush-cut hair and his straight-laced suit and earnest demeanor, whose photo while riding on a paving machine with the regular Department of Public Works guys was recently posted on Facebook, there he is. The guy who has to settle union disputes and make budgets balance and be both demeaned and praised publicly while still keeping his cool, there he is, spending his Sunday afternoon, witnessing this best, most important-so-far feat of scores of 17- and 18-year-olds.

I know he’s been there before.  This is not new.  He was at my daughter’s graduation.  He was at my son’s.  Though this doesn’t much happen in the big cities, I do know this happens in small towns and even in other small cities.  I know this is not unique.

But it is just right for me.  Just the right size.   Just the right size to fall in love. Again.


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