I left work yesterday tired and a bit frustrated. I just wanted to go home and hibernate. As I turned out of the parking lot and drove up the street in the heavy winter darkness, Easthampton stepped out from its dressing room and twirled around, modeling its new duds. Every tree along Cottage Street was strung with white lights. Wreathes hung along the lamp posts. The windows of the shops were decked (out). Easthampton looked festive and fine.
The thing that struck me was that all of it felt so genuine— it didn’t feel like a shopping mall or a movie set, it felt like a small town putting its best foot forward for its residents. The town didn’t get all dolled up for commercial reasons (to trick people into spending money using olde time nostalgia), it did it out of pride and respect, because the residents deserve to see it sparkle for awhile. The town had brushed off its holiday best, it was sitting up straight and waiting to be noticed.
When we moved here from Northampton, a friend who lives a few blocks away welcomed us and said he loves Easthampton because it’s “grittier, more real”. And while I love Northampton, I know what he means. There aren’t really any tourists to impress over here, not yet anyway. The town is here for the people who live and work and create here. That isn’t always the best philosophy for business, but the genuine sentiment behind the holiday get-up is a nice change of pace.
Thank you Easthampton, for making me sit up straight and notice you. (I promise we’ll do a photoshoot later in the week.)