Welcome to Stockbridge, Mass., a Quintessential New England Town
It's hard to remember staying in a community for only an hour, and leaving with a lifetime of memories.
That's the feeling last summer when I visited my father and uncles in Stockbridge, Mass., a popular summertime vacation community in western Massachusetts' gentle Berkshire Mountains.
At 42-years-old and a lifelong New Englander, I had never been to Stockbridge. I thought it might be a good town gone bad-- perhaps, Norman Rockwell's popular renditions of the lifestyle here had developers transforming the community in one big souvenir shop.
Nothing could be further from the truth, and proof that preconceived notions sometimes stink. Stockbridge represents New England at its best. From the alternatingly sunny and shady tree-lined streets to the locally-owned, small-town center , Stockbridge is indeed Norman Rockwell come to life, but with very little of the overly commercial by-products.
Having lunch at a luncheonette -- complete with stools and counter -- in an old time market harkened back to a previous generation. This is not an unusual feeling in Stockbridge where the pace seems slower and the air smells sweeter. After lunch, a chance to sit on one of the rocking chairs at the famed Red Lion Inn porch was everything as advertised. From the slight elevation, you can seem true America at its best --the charming little shops, the wide sidewalks and street, kids riding their bikes, the lovely churches, and the splendid diverse New England architecture of the town, to name a few. Touring the Red Lion Inn inside created a mental note to definitely come back to stay -- this is the blueprint for what people perceive as a classic New England inn -- lots of wood, dim lighting, antiques, china, a reserved but friendly staff and a restaurant with lots of New England fare.
Because of scheduling constraints -- a nighttime minor league baseball game in nearby urban Pittsfield and seeing my uncle's nearby lakefront summer home -- I made the most of short walk back to the car. It was like one of those awkward moments where you find it hard to say goodbye to someone you're not going to see for awhile -- you stall and stall and stall, as you want more meaningful time together. Despite walking at a normal pace, it seemed like the longest 300 yard walk in history. Who wants to leave a slice of Americana that is so absent from America today?
On the ride back home, I though about what makes Stockbridge so special. I didn't spend time shopping or visiting myriad tourist attractions. And that is just the point. Much of the appeal of Stockbridge can be attributed to just being there. All it takes to become a fan of the town is to open your eyes and look around. You can feel the spirit and serenity in just one blink. I plan on blinking many more times in Stockbridge.
For mor information on Stockbridge, visit www.stockbridgechamber.org
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