My family and I have lived in Norwich a long time, we think, but I encounter people or situations on a nearly daily basis that remind me a blink of an eye can be an eternity and vice versa. It is surprising and sometimes not pleasant but always educational.
We talk a lot about history in New England and more especially here in Norwich with our three and half centuries and important moments from every historical epoch from the Forgotten Founders and the Revolutionary War through Abraham Lincoln's stay at the Wauregan Hotel to Bill Clinton's visit to the Greeneville Pharmacy, but the real story behind our history is our story, the life and times of those of us who live and work here.
Early this past Sunday morning, I wandered, not aimlessly but on a gravity driven glide slope from Chelsea Parade through Down City along both Water and Main Street. I smiled as I strode through Franklin Square on my circuit to include the old YMCA building and still-but-who-knows-for-how-much-longer Post Office.
My family and I were probably years if not decades and thousands of miles from living here when the F. W. Woolworth in Franklin Square transitioned from a downtown fixture to a part of its past. Where I grew up in New Jersey we had one, complete with a lunch counter and Cherry Cokes from a soda fountain and as newly-weds Sigrid and I often shopped at one in her hometown in West Germany.
I've heard tell of Franklin Square as a hub of regional retail commerce for many years with stories of seemingly endless waves of shoppers, from within and without Norwich, on throng-packed sidewalks every Thursday evening from the Sears and Roebuck through Reid and Hughes and to the small businesses of every shape and size beyond.
It seemed to me as a late(r)-comer here, that the upper half of New London County looked to The Rose of New England as the fingers of the hand look to the thumb. And now, here we are, as 2014 starts to accelerate in earnest still using what once was to explain what no longer is instead of why we allow it to keep us from whatever we believed tomorrow could look like.
We are a city of discouraged experts who watch silently and sometimes sullenly as enthusiastic beginners, who don't know what they don't know, try their hand at making Norwich a chapter in their story. We admire them for their effort to be a light but are more comfortable being a horn.
We recall every misstep and failure, no matter how long ago, as if it were yesterday but choose to not remember the origin and birthplace of the thermos bottle and the Polaroid camera. Excuse and excellence both start and end with the same letters. It's what happens after the start that changes everything.