My daughter and I found ourselves with an unexpected hour of 'free time,' and we decided to take a stroll through the Danvers Square to see what there is to see. "Isn't the downtown so pretty, now?" she asked me. She went on to point out all the new little shops and restaurants, the pretty street lights, and the overall quaintness of it all.
"Sure," I told her, "it's really coming along..." of course, I can't help myself...perhaps its a sign of age, but I began pointing out 'what used to be': Archer Kent, Sunnyhurst Farms, Harvey Jewelers; and across the street, the old mattress store once stood where the atrium is now- before the big fire took it all away...
I told her the story about how our family was away in New Hampshire when that fire tore through, devastating the entire block. I'll never forget driving up route 35 into the square, the signal to my nine year old brain that said, "you're almost home!" And the scorched wreckage came into view. I was horrified. Although I had never even been inside the iconic blue building that had anchored the businesses on that corner of High and Elm Streets for as long as I'd been alive, I was still so sad to see it destroyed.
Thinking about that summer so long ago began to conjure up memories of what life was like when I was a kid growing up here in Danvers. In the summer, time seemed to stand still for us kids. We divided our time between catching frogs and riding bikes; there were daily ice cream trucks where you could get an Italian Ice for fifty cents; and at park we had bubblers, gimp and the annual park parade.
We would skip rope in the old neighborhood, as long as we could sucker two kids into holding the ends. If there were only two of us, well, then an old chair was the likely stand in.
But the real adventure was when the streetlights went on and we had a mere thirty minutes before the curfew whistle blew for our favorite pastime: Kick The Can. Being the youngest in the neighborhood gang with the earliest bedtime had its disadvantages. For years I merely watched the bigger kids' hide and seeking as I pressed my nose up against the smelly screen in my bedroom window, yearning to grow up (right now!). But those few times the teenagers let me play along were the thrill of my life!
Later, I became a big reader, abandoning the usual play things for the simple pleasure of getting lost between the pages of the classics my mom brought me free from some grocery store promotion: Little Women, Treasure Island, and my favorite, The Black Stallion. I would set up camp for the entire day, nose in book, toe to the floor, gently swinging back and forth on the old glider on our huge front porch. Well, the porch certainly seemed huge to me, funny how perspective changes with the passage of time.
As I take in the “New” Danvers Square, with its pristine brick walkways, beautiful flowering fruitless pear trees, and pretty street lights, I feel a sense of pride, and at the same time I can’t help but think about how things have changed. It's a different world now; a different neighborhood, and certainly a different Danvers Square.
Yeah, I think the downtown looks pretty snazzy. The improvements have brought new life to the businesses there, and I'm proud of what the town has done, and is continuing to do. But there is nothing like the good old days, when a kid was just a kid; catching frogs, skipping rope, kicking cans and having the sheer luxury to forget about time.