Happy 4th from a Vermonter! No, wait I am technically a flatlander…

I had breakfast with the boys this morning. The local boys. Vermont locals. Vermonters. My husband and I decided to go out for breakfast this morning after our early Sunday morning run. After all it was the 4th of July. We felt festive as we made our way down the street to the local general store just 2.1 miles from our house. We placed our breakfast order with a familiar face. We see her daily as we pick-up our mail at the very same location. Pleasantries were exchanged. We grabbed some hot coffee on our way to find a seat at “the table” in the back of the store. A young couple was just finishing their coffee. We asked to share the ample space and sat down. They were soon to say goodbye and leave just we two. We chatted about the day ahead while waiting for breakfast. Soon, three men appeared at “the table.”

 “We meet here every Sunday for coffee” one gentleman stated. Staking their claim? Yes, it may be the 4th of July, but it still is a Sunday was the inference.  No exceptions. How can they be staking their claim over a table that is brand new? The general store’s recent extensive renovations have just been completed. Tradition or attrition? Their stance was as firm as their resolve. Soon one sat, while another pulled out a chair and the third sat closely on my right. We were immediately informed that this is where “the men meet” and I quickly responded “well, this week there is a “girl” in the mix.” They welcomed the thought of a new and fresh opinion. To which my husband of a thousand years was quick to respond, “oh don’t worry about that as she has plenty of opinions.” Whose side was he on????  Immediately I understood my work here is not yet done…

The coveted table at the back of the general store is where friends meet. Locals. A daily meeting of the minds. As we all settled into our early Sunday coffee the conversation started off with “where are you folks from?” I could have put money on that one. “Apparently our “flatlanderness” spoke before we did. Our attempt to fit in was on the line. We immediately responded that we live just down the road. We LIVE here. “Whose house did you buy” was the chaser. Did they think we were one of the many Covid-19 refuges that have recently moved to Vermont? My husband chimed in with “we bought our house 7 years ago.” Yeah, you tell ‘em honey in your crisp new Orvis polo shirt and khaki shorts. I smiled to myself. The group’s eyeroll was audible. A valiant attempt by my husband but it could have been 127 years and it wouldn’t have mattered.  Acceptability must be substantiated with a Vermont birth certificate.

The conversation flowed. We were happy to listen. Their language was easy and familiar. Old friends. Economical word choices supported by mutual understanding. Years together filled in the blank spaces of an unfinished sentence.  A dry sense of humor brought laughter to the forefront. The truth exaggerated for our benefit or by habit was unknown, but the entertainment factor was wonderful. I grew up in a rural dairy farming community in Massachusetts so while this brand of New Englander was somewhat new it was also delightfully familiar to me.

An exchange of ideas about how best to deal with the unwelcome guests plaguing our homes was a big topic. No, not flatlanders but animals. Damage by porcupines and woodchucks was hashed out. I spoke about the adolescent bear that was outside our kitchen window just yesterday morning. “Those are the most bothersome” I was told by one of my new acquaintances. He went on to explain to me why; “they have just been booted out and are learning how to be on their own. They are figuring things out.” Apparently, adolescents are challenging whether human or animal. I valued his words.

Knowledge and wisdom flowed as easily as the coffee. Practical in nature. Tried and true. Either passed down through the many generations or experience has been their teacher. There is a valued self-reliance that comes with living remotely. I admire it. I respect it. I find there is a grace and an elegance in the hard-working people that have called this beautiful, rugged, and mountainous state home.

I paint Vermont images. I write about my Vermont life. Today I was privy to and surrounded by the real Vermont and I loved it. Already hoping for a next time…

“Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers. It may not be difficult to store up in the mind a vast quantity of facts within a comparatively short time, but the ability to form judgments requires the severe discipline of hard work and the tempering heat of experience and maturity.” Calvin Coolidge

Author: Elizabeth Ricketson

A graduate of Providence College with a BA in English, Elizabeth Ricketson has always had a love of literature and the fine arts. Elizabeth’s essays focus on life experiences and life in Vermont.

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