Finding Memories in the Basement

 

I was cleaning out the basement the other day.  Let me rephrase that, because I know I'll get a loving nudge from my wife accompanied by a semi-acerbic "when did you clean the basement?"  I was cleaning out the lint screen from the dryer and tidying up the kitty litter the other day, and I stumbled upon an old keepsake I have stored in the basement.  It was the printing plate, the actual metal template from the front page of the May 25, 1993 Enterprise.  Someone had given it to me as a memento. It caught my eye, and I spent a few minutes fondly looking at the pictures and headlines, and many more reflecting on the Falmouth pictured and covered in that edition not so long ago. 

Above the fold was a picture of the late Bill Munson.  His kind, bespectacled face was reading the sign-in book just after being sworn in as a Library Trustee by Town Clerk Carol Martin.  Standing behind them with wide smiles were the town's two new Selectmen, awaiting their turn to raise their right hand and swear to do their duty for their community.  Pat Flynn and I had eager, almost hopeful looks on our faces.  We topped a crowded field and won a tough race that year, the first victory for us both.  Two hard working incumbents, John Elliot and the late Ray Labossiere, were defeated in that election.  John's perpetual commitment to public service hasn't changed, though.  He still serves Falmouth proudly on the Upper Cape Transfer Station Board of Managers.  Other candidates included my friend and fellow inkslinger Jude Wilber, Maravista dog owner Tony Camerio, and the well spoken and entrepreneurial Main Street landlord Bob Suitor.  I don't think any race since has had as many candidates. 

It was a different, more hopeful time.  I suppose most towns were in a pre-September 11 world.  Perhaps it was just my own youthful vim and vigor.  Whatever the reason, there seemed to be more hope back then.  Our community was still feeling its way through the new charter which had passed just a couple of years before.  Pat and I took our seats with seasoned veterans Nate Ellis, Eddie Marks, and Virginia Valiela.  The dynamic quickly shaped up - guys against the gals. We wrangled and tangled over some pretty heady issues - the MMR Cleanup, the outspoken Police Chief from Champlin, and the fate of smoking in our restaurants.  Those seem so distant today.  The base is pretty much clean, smoking isn't allowed anywhere, and mean Gene is an afterthought.  However much we tangled, though, we remained respectful and mindful that the public was watching.  I miss that civility and courtesy.  Today's Board would do well to watch some tapes of those meetings.

Pat and I became pretty good friends.  She started to watch the kids grow; we exchanged gifts at the holidays, and despite our differing philosophies and backgrounds, enjoyed a kinship, having started our journey on the same day.  I was the upstart kid from East Falmouth, and she was the educated transplant from D.C., but we knew that we were doing our best for the town.  A couple of times, Eddie and I convinced Pat to join us at the Quarterdeck after a meeting.  They weren't strategy sessions, just a chance to socialize and get to know each other.  Then slowly, but most certainly, we grew apart.  Looking back, I suspect it was my growing hubris and overgrown sense of self-importance, but I gradually became convinced that I was right and she was wrong.  I admit that when Ahmed defeated Pat after we served together for nine years, I was not sorry to see her go.  Little did I know I would get my own pink slip at my next election.  Familiarity had indeed bred a bit of contempt. Our positive energy and boundless hope had turned into cynicism and doubt.  It lingers still at the curved table.  The Board has floundered since, unable to find the cohesiveness and cooperation of that time.

So now I sit, reflecting on having found this reminder of our shared start in leading this wonderful community, and realize that we both got a second chance. Pat came back three years ago and found a renewed energy and sense of positive purpose on the Board of Selectmen.  I get to share my thoughts weekly in this space.  We are both fortunate. But so too, I guess, is Falmouth.  When people care enough to give of themselves simply to make their community better, we all win. Our paths crossed again as well.  I found a bit of humility, and with it came a renewed friendship. 

The other headliners on that May 25th Enterprise front page  included a discussion of the new school resource officer program,  a photo of Joe Quintiliani giving a speech at  Chris Beal's Eagle Scout award ceremony, and the first of many stories on the late Leo McCarty's long but ultimately successful quest for an ambulance in North Falmouth.  Good stories, all of them, sprinkled with Hugh McCartney's folksy charm and based on simple but powerful efforts to improve our slice of humanity in Falmouth.

So, as I go to the polls on Tuesday, I'll be thinking about that time, and about Pat. I suggest you won't find a person in the corner conference room with a stronger sense that we can still together make Falmouth better.  In this community, at this time, with this Board, that's enough for me.     

 This column is reprinted from the Falmouth Enterprise.

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