Vol. II No. 10 5/15/2021
The Soul of Stockbridge: Part One
by Teresa O'Brient
It's spring in Stockbridge. I'm walking down Main Street to open the "best little country store in the world." It's the perfect spring day, and I think about how much I love the tulips in front of the Red Lion Inn and the sound of the birds providing the soundtrack for my life.
Main Street is postcard perfect. I never tire of the view down the sidewalk on my morning commute. Of course, it's just as beautiful in summer when absolutely everything is in bloom, and if you pay attention, the fragrance from the Red Lion lilies fills the air with aroma therapy. It's even more engaging in autumn when there are leaves to crunch under my feet in front of St. Paul's a reminder of sweet childhood memories walking to school. Perhaps the best season of all is when the town is covered in snow and it's literally a work of art.
I arrive at the shop, coax my key into the finicky lock, and using the only technique that works to open the centuries old heavy door, maneuver the key until it turns, grasp the handle with my left hand, and push my hip into it. Thus I am welcomed in with the shop bell jangling above my head. I have the same thought every time: How many shopkeepers before me have performed this very same ritual, this very same way, morning after morning, for more than two centuries. I turn to look out the big front windows and see the patient dogwalker stopped near a tree on the sidewalk and then a neighbor from up the hill making [his or her? not their] way to the post office or coffee shop. Who was it my shopkeeper predecessors turned to see on Main Street? Maybe an unleashed dog sniffing along the shaded street. Maybe a neighbor scurrying in the shop behind them, come to town to purchase dry goods on credit with simply a name and a currency amount written on a small slip of crinkly paper. That's how they did it. I've seen the evidence.
I perform the ritual of turning on the hidden light switches, count the starting money into the cash register and inhale the familiar mix of beeswax candles, sugary candy, pine soap and old wood. What used to be on these antique shelves - bolts of cotton? Hand forged nails and leather straps? Coffee and spices?
Editor's note: Teresa's commute is a few steps to the corner, across Main street, and four doors down.
For generations, the Country Store has been the go-to counter for candy for children and their parents.