Saturday, October 21, 2017


There’s an old, worn out expression (used far too often) that asserts that “God doesn’t give us anything that we can’t handle.” I clung to this expression for dear life as my quirky GPS took me on a seven-hour ride to Stamford, Connecticut that involved back roads and scenic overlooks, hair pin turns in the dark and road changes every five minutes or so. Perhaps God and GPS don’t mix. The trip is supposed to be between 4 and 5 hours and should be more or less a straight shot up 95.

I’ve made the trip many times in my life, but never as a driver alone. So, once I decided to put my trust in the GPS, I was stuck. In fact, I was so daunted by the whole ordeal that I didn't stop once. Seven hours with no breaks is a bit of an effort. The middle finger on my left hand is numb.

But, I’m here. I pulled up after midnight to a hotel that didn’t exist when graduated from high school and more or less left this town for good. When I awoke and looked out the window I realized that none of the buildings and homes within my view were here when I left. Holy mackerel.

We moved to Stamford when I was at the end of seventh grade. So it’s not truly my hometown, but it’s the setting of my adolescence. At that time there was one tall building, the FD Rich Building. No mall, one or two movie theaters, a down at the heels Main Street with a few off shoots. It was a huge deal when the main drag got a McDonalds.

There was just about nothing to do in town for teenagers. The beach in summer. The Mall came along well after we had graduated. My social life was divided between school activities and church youth group. I’m not all that sentimental about the Stamford of those years because in many ways it was a pretty dreary place.

On the other hand, it was small enough and safe enough that we could walk around town, shop, take the bus, go to the movies or the library without adult assistance. There wasn’t much to do but we could do much of it ourselves.

I wonder if that is still the case. And the world has changed. Do teenagers anywhere have the kind of autonomy we took for granted?

I guess my memories all fall into Stamford: pre-redevelopment. The old town was winding down, treading water. Possibly even then pieces the stage was being set for the huge changes to come.

You can bet that I’ll be spending the next twenty-four hours looking at my old stomping grounds while thinking about Columbia. Is the Stamford of today better? More vibrant? Do the changes make sense? Do they give this old town a better sense of place?

In the meantime I’ll need to use my GPS to find the mall. I left my dress shoes at home.

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