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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Walking Backward Through Time

The clouds scuttle across the sky and the sun plays tag with the shadows cast by them as the fallen leaves race ahead in childlike enthusiasm. Today is our anniversary*; with the weather replicating our special day as if on cue. We have no hard fast plans for a magnificent celebration. We have after all been married now for 34 years. As any who have traveled a lifetime together know, it is no one day that makes the celebration. The path to this day has seen joys, sorrows and strife. Yet, we are here together still. While I am one to always be looking ahead, I give him a gift he so often enjoys, the looking backward. This is how we come to visit Benson’s; to walk hand in hand in this newly repurposed park, to pretend we are living our infatuation again.

From Benson's Wild Animal Farm


Benson’s Wild Animal Farm, once a cherished destination of so many and closed since the 1980’s has found new life as a town park owned by the town of Hudson, NH. Volunteers tirelessly restore old barns and animal cages, care for the grounds, and blaze trails throughout the nearly 200 acre site. It is here that we hold hands and select one of the trails to walk. This one will take us past the elephant barn, the cage that once was home to Colossus, the 500 pound silverback gorilla. As we make our way, I feel an unmistakable prickling along my spine. Images of two of my children, very young and impressionable, pop into my mind. If feels to me that this is the place where Crystal first discovered her compassionate self and asked that we release the animals to freedom; and where Stephanie lost her favorite “little pillow” which she never traveled anywhere without. Our friend Ron, then a teen, is remembered fondly and I chuckle with the memory of his teenage antics.

From Benson's Wild Animal Farm



From Benson's Wild Animal Farm



From Benson's Wild Animal Farm


Though the rides and amusements are long gone, I can smell the cotton candy and popcorn as I come around the bend. While there are many people here today, it is not their voices I hear, but the laughter of children, and the distance trumpeting of an elephant. The real live people here are dedicated volunteers, some with scouts doing community service, other’s just regular folk wanting to give back to the community and restore a place they remember from their own youth and still dear to their hearts. It is here we meet and speak to many people, something that did not happen back in the day when we were more interested in the next ride, or treat. Many dog breeds are out walking their people. They stop politely to inspect us and allow us conversation for a moment or two, until they tug on the leash that tells their person it’s time to move along.

Near one of the former bird cages, we find John and Diana Crafts, wiping their brow, as they struggle with roots and weeds. They have adopted this spot and plan the flower garden that will occupy this place next season. It is no easy task. The more they pull the more they find. They are not discouraged however and point to another former bird cage as an example of what can be achieved. It is giving them perseverance in their task.

From Benson's Wild Animal Farm



From Benson's Wild Animal Farm


I have a bit of fun of my own, and enter the gorilla cage. It’s a somber place, as I peer inside the secret places by which Colossus used to escape the crowds. Yet as Andy takes his turn within the cage, I snap a few photos and teasingly remark that it should not take 34 years to finally have control over one’s spouse. Andy thumps his chest and stalks around the perimeter, and I know full well, that in whatever confines he finds himself, he is the master of his world. Knowing that Colossus spent a great deal of time watching television here, it isn’t so far away from what Andy enjoys too. All that is needed is an armchair and a glass of rum and coke.

From Benson's Wild Animal Farm


While pretending to be infatuated again was great fun for a day, it is not what sustains two people for a lifetime. Benson’s is the perfect place to visit in this regard. The people here are examples of this concept. It is not the cotton candy, the wild animals or the rides that call them here to service. Despite the excitement of these having long ago faded away, they know it was not these things that made Benson’s special. It was the connections; family, friends, community, that live long after the infatuation and excitement faded, that has them holding hands to keep Benson’s in the community for generations to come.

*Wedding Anniversary October 16th.

See all the photos here.

1 comment:

Richard said...

Pat,
Thanks. This blog really hit home. Sharon and I have been married for 31 years and together for 36. What you say about being and staying together is so true and you put it in perfect perspective. A great read.
Rich