"Coronalone". It's like "Home Alone", but without Macaulay Culkin. And without the burglars (we hope). It's our ridiculous name for the surreal and strange circumstances in which we currently find ourselves.
And we currently find ourselves ruminating on the nature of change, and the tendency in human nature to resist it. The title of this week’s post is a quote from Heraclitus, a philosopher who lived about 2,500 years ago, so apparently this subject matter is nothing new.
I grew up in (what was then) a relatively small, rural town on Lake Winnipesaukee. When my parents moved us there in the early 1970s I was just a baby, and the year-round population of the town was about 3,000. By 2017, that year-round population had at least doubled. Summers were a different story, because the influx of summer residents further swelled the town’s population each year. I remember hearing when I was young that, back then, the town doubled in size each summer. Current estimates from the town manager suggest that it now almost triples, to as high as about 16,000 each summer. Of course, that estimate does not include all of the tourists who also descend upon the area each season. Based on summer traffic, I estimate the amount of people in the town on any given summer Saturday at about 2.2 million. (Of course, that might be a slight overestimation brought about by heat, humidity, and a seasonally recurring case of road rage.)
So many things in town have changed over the years. The old, dilapidated linen mill was a familiar— albeit rather unsightly— landmark in my early childhood. Traveling home from trips to Rhode Island to visit cousins, what would alert me that we were almost home was the view of its shattered windows and sad visage, my highway-induced slumber usually having been broken by the slowing of the car just as it took the corner by the Mill in the center of town. The mill building was restored in 1984 and transformed into an inn, accompanied by a complex of retails shops, which has become a destination for tourists and residents alike. The waterfront property that used to contain the Catholic Church— apparently far more valuable to the tourism industry than to God— was sold in the early 2000s and now features another inn, complete with a conference center and a spa. Main Street has boomed, busted, and been “revitalized”. Shops and eateries have come and gone, our local newspaper has been sold to an out-of-state operation, and even the originally locally-owned inns have been sold to a hotel chain. Ah, progress…
The latest casualties, torn down just this past summer, have been the old Meredith Laundromat and the building at the lights in the center of town that, years ago, housed the Interlakes Dairy Bar and the A&P grocery store. Several other tenants, none lasting very long, had come in and gone out of the space over the years, and then the building sat vacant for several more. As with the Mill, the demolition is likely an improvement over the dilapidated old structures, but nostalgia is a strong emotion, and even “good” change can cause some serious twinges. I mean, I’m still sad that the Ben Franklin store, our version of a “five and dime”, is no longer in existence, even if its closure did make way for the renovation that brought the town its first— and only— large supermarket.
One of our area’s claims to fame, Funspot— also known as the largest arcade in the world— is still in existence, but technically that is over the line in the next town, so I’m not sure we can count it. It never ceases to amaze me that, as kids, we had no concept of how fortunate we were to have an arcade of that size in our area. I guess we just assumed that everyone had one in their town. I think it was only after I watched the documentary “The King of Kong” in 2007, which features a tournament held at Funspot, that I realized what an important role the place played in the video game boom of the eighties. Go figure: We just thought it was a good place to go on Saturday nights in the summer, usually before a trip to Kellerhaus for ice cream and the Weirs “strip” for… well, just to “hang out”, I guess, until it was time for the double-feature at the Weirs Beach Drive-In. Ooh, the Drive-In! That’s another classic place that still exists, but I don’t know how much longer it will last. There were rumblings in 2017 of a possible sale to a developer who wanted to tear it down and develop the land for condominiums. Change is always on the horizon.
We celebrated many birthdays at Funspot over the years: Lots for my nephew, a few for my brother, and at least one that I remember for Devin. I made her a sock monkey cake, a bunch of friends showed up, and we bowled. Who could ask for anything more? I wonder if Funspot will ever feel the same now, with Devin gone. See, more change. More nostalgia. And a different, more piercing sense of loss than any building being torn down, or any business moving on.
Change. It is inevitable, and often completely out of our control. Sometimes, I think we create more distress for ourselves through our resistance to it than is caused by the actual change itself. I have no wise advice for avoiding that, by the way. I mean, it would be easy for me to say that we simply need to take deep breaths, say some sort of mantra, do yoga, light some incense or apply aromatherapy oils or whatever, and learn to surrender to change in order to make our lives more calm and peaceful; however, since I have not once in my life succeeded in doing so, I’m thinking that pretending I know what the process looks like would be the epitome of disingenuousness. I think we’re all going to have to find our own way of accepting change, and it will probably look different for each of us. What I do know is that there has to be some way we can be helpful to each other while we experience it. Even socially-distanced, I am certain that there are ways we can support each other as we navigate all of the loss and change that has occurred this year.
And I am very curious to hear other people’s suggestions, if anyone has succeeded at this whole “surrender” thing. Being a slight control freak (yes, I hear that giggling back in the cheap seats, brought on by my choice of the term “slight”) I have a hard time envisioning what surrender and acceptance might look like. Share your vision with me. Maybe I can learn something new.
A little history of my hometown, in pdf format, if anyone is interested: