Cranford, NJ. My hometown. The only Cranford in the USA, I've heard. Just 13 or so miles from Manhattan, it's a pretty town, full of comfortable homes, large, breezy trees and quiet shady streets. Almost anywhere is walkable, from the pathways leading to Nomahegan Park and the college, to the footbridge along the river, which, when it's behaving itself, stays within its banks.
All of my friends from high school, those who lived on Franklin Pl, Herning Ave, Brookdale Rd and elsewhere, are long gone; moved away, as have their parents. Yet, I still drive these suburban streets and things, for the most part, look the same.
For those of you who are wondering, yes, the high school looks the same as it did in 1969; only the steps no longer amble sideways up to the front doors, but were repositioned directly in front and go straight up. They've been that way for years.
Whenver I visit my Dad we inevitably end up at the Cranford Diner, directly across from the train station. NY buses still pull into the parking area, scoop up the waiting, and proceed to their next stop.
The downtown is still there, yet most of the stores and the places I most remember are long gone. No more Sweet Shop at the corner of N. Union & Alden Sts, no more Robinson's or Can Can, (I think the latter went the way of the winds when my daughter was 6 0r 7; she's 33.) The Peppermint room is also just a memory, where certain cliques found after-school refuge in the old-style red booths of the skinny soda shop. Gone, as well, is Seager's, the old fashioned drug store with the soda fountain inside, across from the 5 & 10. Am I making any sense? Funny how words mean something and then don't, how new words, silly words, take their place, some with great significance. Did you "google" today?
So many new businesses, so many new names, a few new buildings, but the downtown still looks remarkably as it did when we were all singing "Hey Jude."
I've been looking at those buildings for so long, the two banks on the corners of N. Union & North ave.; Martin Jewellers is still in the same place. Most of the downtown is two and three-stories high, with apartments in some of the spaces on the upper floors.
There is one 3-story building which faces the train station, and when you see if from the back there are wooden steps and wooden porches attached to the brick facade. Years ago whoever lived there had pretty flowerpots and flowerboxes strewn out on that 3rd floor back porch. I would always look there whenever driving through, and always saw flowers for the longest time. There did come a day when the flowers were gone and the apartment looked forlornly empty. Since then, I've never seen flowers on the back porch ever again.
Just last month my Dad and I drove to the diner and parked along the street right along the back of the building. Walking along the sidewalk I glanced up at the wooden porches again as we got closer to the small driveway area. Then I noticed something I've never noticed before. On the third floor porch, tucked into one corner, and obscure in the shadows, is a metal spiral staircase which ascends to the ceiling, where a closed panel goes through to the roof. And there it is, and there it's been, all along.
And I've never seen it before!
Over 40 years, and I've never noticed. Right there next to the flowers and the porch railings, perfectly obvious, hidden in plain sight.
How much of our lives are exactly like that? How much do we think we see; how much do we really see?
So, here's my point; look around your downtown, I mean, really look around, and find something you've never seen before. It just might be that little yarn shop or craft emporium, tucked away and not making any noise to get noticed, that you will discover. And do it before it's too late! On my way to Cranford, I have been passing by a yarn shop on Rt 15 and had every intention of stopping in to see what I might see; only thing is there was a fire about 5 months ago and now the yarn shop along with the other businesses in the old converted barn are no more. Hopefully, they are rebuilding, but who wants to wait?!
Next post, join me in Denmark!