Once I finally made the decision to move west, I realized the importance of making the “final trip” to Gloversville, my “childhood” home town in Upstate New York’s Adirondack Mountains. Nothing of course is ever final but deep inside, when I realized it was time to ‘let go of the attachment’ to New England, the transition forward would be that much smoother and over the years, I’d look back less and less.
Letting go always meant that in someway I’d become more superficial and perhaps even “lose my way,” if I didn’t have a New England base. Despite my numerous country and city moves, I always had Gloversville and Caroga Lake to return to to “reground myself.”
I would find a corner somewhere on the lake to marvel, relax and take it all in. Find a hammock and read a book. Find a tree to climb and just stare across the lake, listening to the hum of the motorboats and jetskis. Find a trail to hike or a canoe to explore in.
An odd weekend to choose, I drove to upstate New York on Mother’s Day weekend with ropes and a tarp ready to drag anything back with me I couldn’t bear to let go of. There’s that word again. Yet, when I arrived, I realized there was more I was comfortable with parting with than I expected.
I chose to take my childhood dresser, an old dark Irish ebony piece that held early memories of reading mystery novels in the upstairs bedroom, an add-on to the Walnut Street house where I’d spy on the neighbors through the window.
I closed out my grandfather’s safe deposit box in the old City National Bank on Main Street. Sadly, there wasn’t much left. What I noticed is the way he organized old papers and odds and ends, a distinct reminder of the way he looked at the world.
He saved the old coins for his grandchildren and yet, over the years, fewer family members gathered together at holidays and later, even talked to each other. If anything, my family would rather forget the past and their geneology rather than hold onto it. The trail of alcoholism likely has a lot to do with it. Or perhaps it was just that they grew weary of ongoing conflicts over the years.
My thirty year old bright pink leather wallet was in the box for some odd reason. Inside I found a few dollar bills with Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and Santa Claus’ faces on them. There was also 60 year old mortgage papers and outdated certificates of properties he sold twenty years ago. God, the papers were so antiquated. I was dumbfounded to discover that I just paid the same price for a seminar that he paid for a house.
Have we really come that far? And if so, to accomplish what exactly?
Once a thriving community, Gloversville can look like a deserted ghost town if you hit the main drag at the wrong time of day. Home of world renowned glove factories, they stand empty and desolate today. I drove around a few favorite backstreets reliving old neighborhood jaunts, dropping a tear or two as I realized the town would have little meaning without a grandfather to visit.
I passed Glen’s Tavern, my father’s second home. A short walk from his small one bedroom apartment, he now spends more time at Glens than Main Street’s Quigleys or any of the other dingy town bars.
There’s the building of my deceased Uncle Alton who ran Blodgett’s Dry Cleaning until he died in the seventies. Is there a “real” business working out of it? Hard to tell. It sits across from my cousin’s gas station.
And the sad dilapidated building where my grandfather’s shop used to be home to heating and sheet metal supplies. Now barely standing, I stared through the windows to catch a brief glimpse of a cold day in 1975. I was sitting on a torn stool in front of an old cash register, the kind with the big buttons where a loud bell rang when the cash drawer flew open.
His papers were scattered across his desk – no order, no system, no logic. Invoices were filed in a tall six drawer antique oak filing cabinet, a durable structure with a stable fixure for hanging folders, unlike the several I’ve owned over the past decade. I hate to admit the near nude woman’s calendar on the wall next to his desk, but if memory serves me correctly, it was there.
There was rarely a “fixed place” for me to sit, so I was often in the way. I always wanted to help, but the “men” never took the time to show me how to do anything that would serve me later in life. Almost anything I learned in that shop would have been beneficial in my life today.
A brisk breeze brought me out of the flashback.
I headed over to the DelNegro Pharmacy building my grandfather also once owned, which unlike so many others in this town, still stands and is operational. Many of the same players sit behind the desk, the till and the pharmacy, but I rarely go in anymore.
My Uncle Don was head chef in this building once known as Crandy’s as well as so many other names. Today it looks like a haunted building and is “closed for business.”
Permanently? Hard to say. Is Gloversville closed for business permanently? Best to ask the business owners and the mayor – its up to them to revive her. The old hallmark store on Maine Street has been turned into a gift shop coffee bistro and actually serves cappuccino.
This space has been renovated so many times, its hard to know whether there’s a future for Gloversville’s second term. I hope so.
A Fire Department Notice Sign on the old Crandy’s building:
And so many other lonely buildings with notices, warrants, broken windows, graffiti and crumbing brick.
For kicks, I went to Gloversville’s website. This is Mayor Frank Laporta’s intro and PR mantra:
“Gloversville is a community steeped in history and renowned for its sense of family and community. Even a brief visit to Gloversville will provide you with the knowledge that Gloversville is a great place to live and raise a family. Centrally located and within a short driving distance to Albany, Syracuse and NYC, Gloversville is also a fantastic place to set up business. Affordable housing and a quality school system with a brand new middle school round out the picture. I encourage everyone to come to Gloversville and to participate in our efforts to establish a community of caring and assistance.”
It certainly has affordable housing, mostly because so many people have fled for a more prosperous and culturally fulfilling life somewhere else. And yet, I have fond memories of her, her empty crumbling buildings, her neighboring lakes and mountains and most of all, her sense of community that does in fact remain today.
Here, my grandfather’s second wife Jane sits on the back porch. It feels like an end of an era as I drive away.
And like so many times when I have felt this way in Gloversville, this visit marked a stronger distance between her today and the years to come. Have I finally let go of “the attachment?”
“From the Outskirts of the town,
Where of old the mile-stone stood,
Now a stranger, looking down,
I behold a shadowy crown
Of the dark and haunted wood.
Is it changed, or am I changed?
Ah! the oaks are fresh and green,
But the friends with whom I ranged
Through their thickets are estranged
By the years that intervene.”
From The Complete Works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (Boston: 1893)