Clippings by Trent Campbell: Middlebury, on a summer afternoon

Late last summer my wife, Nikki, and I headed down to Middlebury Market for our last creemees of the season. She got a kiddie twist. I got a classic vanilla, small. No sprinkles. We wandered up to Twilight Hall and sat in the grass overlooking the town gymnasium. It was an exceptional afternoon. The sun was shining low in a deep blue sky and a sharp breeze reminded us, sitting as we were in the cool shadow of humble Twilight, one of the most beautiful buildings in town, that fall was near.
We watched people and cars pass us on three sides: College Street, Academy Street and Route 30. We wondered if everyone else was taking in the afternoon as we were. We couldn’t imagine they were. We seemed to be in another time zone. Or no time zone at all. Everything stopped for us. We looked at the gym, its wide expanse of brick filling our field of view, and I asked Nikki what it might be like if the town gym and town offices were not sitting in front of us. What if we could see all the way to downtown, to the iconic Congregational church and to Chipman Hill?
For a few minutes we imagined it.
We finished our creemees and walked across Academy Street and then across the small parking area before stepping onto the lush lawn of the little park that acted almost like an arrowhead pointing to our handsome little town gleaming before us. “All roads lead to Middlebury,” I said to Nikki. A toddler giggled past, kicking, or more accurately, pushing a soccer ball with little legs that barely rose above the height of the ball. His face was smeared with chocolate creemee. His parents, both stretched out on the grass, watched from a distance.
We lingered, taking in the expansive views, until the breeze, warmed now by the sun-filled park, pushed us toward downtown. We stepped around the sign that on one side said “Welcome to Middlebury” and on the other “Welcome to Middlebury College.” We approached the eastern tip of the park and decided to take a counter-clockwise loop around our magical roundabout. The new town office, its front facade matching the curve of the road, sat before us and we eyed an empty bench in the welcoming plaza out front.
The view from our new resting spot was as expansive as it had been from the park. Our eyes were drawn first to the pink flowers hanging in front of Two Brothers. Then to the jewel that is the Vermont Folklife Center. Our eyes kept wandering down College Street, across to the park where the little boy was still giggling and then up to Twilight Hall, the perfect symbol of our town and our college. It was built by the town as a school for its youngest students, but now provided classrooms for its oldest. It is grand and quiet at the same time and its new “home,” surrounded now on two sides by green parks, giving it a much deserved visibility, seemed to make perfect sense.
I stood and took a few steps toward the curb along Main Street. I looked down to our new park and then back at our new town offices, so inviting and open to the town. I looked up toward the old Battell Bridge and at our newer Cross Street Bridge. There was Cannon Park and the Ilsley Library. Twilight Hall in one direction and the National Bank of Middlebury in the other. I saw the Congregational church steeple and the Mead Chapel spire. I saw town and gown. This was the heart of Middllebury, I thought to myself. I was in it. I was surrounded by it. I was living it. How lucky I felt to be somewhere so strongly rooted in the past but so thoughtfully looking toward the future.
I took my wife’s hand and we continued our slow walk ’round the roundabout. Before crossing back to the park I held up and looked down College Street. I took a deep breath and asked Nikki, “How about a creemee?”
“We just had creemees,” she said.
“I know, but I’m feeling good.”

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